Subzero temperatures are expected Friday and Saturday in much of Vermont and New York, leaving many outdoor events cancelled.

Vermont officials are urging people to be prepared and to stay indoors if needed. But one community may be especially vulnerable: the unhoused.

In the Champlain Valley, temperatures could get as low as -16 degrees, not including the windchill. This means the possibility of warming centers and overnight shelters being opened, especially for people experiencing homelessness.

Mark Bosma with Vermont Emergency Management notes, “we don’t really have a ton of final details right now, but I know some communities are thinking about sheltering, and we’re assessing the need and working with local partners to make sure that everyone is taken care of, if we’re needed in that capacity.”

Abby Kelly from the American Red Cross of Northern New England urges people to start stocking up on food and supplies now, in case of a power outage. That means having enough water, non-perishables, heating fuel, and flashlights.

“If we do have a power outage and it is that cold out, we want to be thinking about, ‘do we have enough heating fuel for whatever types of heating devices we use,’” she notes.

“We want to stay inside, keep all of those layers on to keep our bodies warm,” Kelly adds.

Governor Phil Scott says he spoke to his cabinet on Tuesday about the coming arctic cold front. “Thankfully it’s a short period of time that we’re going to have this extreme weather,” Gov. Scott says.

“I’ve asked them to check in with their folks, and their agencies and departments, to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable,” he adds.

A spokesperson from Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger’s office said in a statement:

The City is very concerned about providing resources to the community during the extreme weather this weekend and is working now, with partners, to stand up an emergency cold weather shelter. In the meantime, it is important for folks to know that there is always a daytime warming location available at the Community Resource Center which is run by CVOEO and supported the City of Burlington. 

Burlington’s Community Resource Center will have expanded daytime hours until the cold passes. The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity doesn’t have an overnight shelter itself, but tries to transport people to wherever they can stay overnight.

Paul Dragon, the Executive Director of CVOEO, notes, “our outreach team goes out, they know where encampments are, they know where people are, they have a van, we do pass out essential goods, and sleeping bags, tents and food.”

Dragon adds, “we really try hard to get people into hotels, but as you know, many of them are already filled up, and some of the shelters are as well, and then there’s barriers for people to get in.”

As dangerous cold moves in, local organizations are looking for ways to help the most vulnerable. The Howard Center says its outreach team will also be checking on people known to be unhoused, and will help them find shelter.

You can reach out to your town offices for specific information ahead of the weekend. When the cold comes, call 211 if you need to find the nearest shelter, or other resources.