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As Temperatures Drop, Some Seek Refuge in Warming Centers

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SACRAMENTO -- The cold snap in Sacramento isn't snapping the same for everybody.

"Hey, I survived Vietnam. I'll survive this," said Sam Butler, a homeless man who spoke to us from his sleeping bag on a sidewalk.

When the temperatures plunge this low, it could be survival that's at stake and not just comfort.

"And the first thing I noticed was it's nice and cold, and frostbite was among us," said Pastor Edward Dotson, who works with Sacramento's homeless.

At the Union Gospel Mission on Bannon Street in Sacramento, they've opened a warming center. Between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., folks can go there to get away from the blast of polar air. But it's not just the cold.

"With the rivers rising as well, people are coming off the rivers," said Donny Braninburg of the Union Gospel Mission Church.

Homeless camps along the Sacramento and American Rivers have been flooded out. Now they're freezing too.

It costs about $25,000 a year to keep the Union Gospel Mission warming center going. That covers security and staff, power and heat, and it's paid for entirely by donations to the church.

They've been open for more than a month now, but now more people are seeking the help.

"We see a higher rate of folks coming in to get out of the cold during this snap," Braninburg said.

Still not everybody is willing to accept the help and any rules it comes with.

"No. I'm not getting in tonight either because I can't take my shopping cart in," Butler said.

So he's bracing for another tough night, seeing his own breath, watching for the sun to come back up.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Also it shows you what you're made of," said Michelle Giland, a homeless woman who's also braving the cold Sunday night by choice.