LA CROSSE, WI (WKBT) -

The freezing temps can quickly become a matter of life or death, if you don't have a warm place to stay.

La Crosse warming shelters have extended their hours during the cold sweep this week, and for the first time, the La Crosse Center has opened its doors as a 24/7 shelter for anyone trying to escape the cold. Kwik Trip donated food and beverages, and the Red Cross provided several cots and blankets for people to use.

The center housed about a dozen people Sunday night, though it's largely remained empty throughout the chilly day Monday - but organizers say it's not the number of visitors that matters.

"Did we save somebody? I don't know. Did we give somebody a place? I don't know," said Art Fahey, director of the Center. "But at the same time, 12 people needed shelter last night, and they came to us. If we saved one person, it obviously was well worth it."

Both the Salvation Army and First Baptist Church have also opened their doors during the cold sweep, but the Center offers something other warming shelters don't - a place for pets.

"The Salvation Army will make arrangements for pets, but pets and their owners can't be together, and that's something we offer here," said Ellen Rasmussen, one of the organizers. "You don't want to be separated from your furry children."

Volunteers are welcome at both the La Crosse Center warming shelter and the others. If you're interested, you can call the county's Public Health Department at 608-785-9872.