Nightime freezing temps expected through Wednesday
As arctic air brought single-digit temperatures on Monday night, Thomasville's lone homeless shelter and other nonprofits are trying to meet an increased need for assistance. The freezing temperatures are expected to run through Wednesday night.
The Shepherd's Inn, 310 Hinkle St., can accommodate up to 16 men at a time but is at capacity for 2014's first bout of winter weather. Despite the full house, the shelter is ready to help anyone trying to survive potentially dangerous cold temperatures.
“Our biggest thing now is we're to the point of having to turn people away,” said Huey Turner, The Shepherd's Inn executive director. “We only have 16 spots and that's probably the saddest part.”
A plethora of holiday donations have equipped the shelter with plenty of blankets and other necessities that are available to people unable to find a place to stay. Turner said if his shelter doesn't have what someone needs he will refer them to an agency that does.
“We had consecutive days of below freezing a couple of years ago but I can honestly say that something this arctic, like single digits, is going to be pretty rough on anyone who happens to be out in it,” Turner said. “We have a stockpile of blankets and we'll get extra ones out. If anybody comes by we will still give them blankets or anything we have to take care of what they need. We're ready even if we don't have to room to take care of anybody we can.”
A major obstacle facing the homeless population is the windchill factor. Overnight windchills can drop the temperature to below freezing, creating life-threatening circumstances to anyone unable to get out of the elements.
“The thing most people don't think about is the windchill factor,” said Turner. “With the wind chill factor being so low, most of the guys out on the road will go sleep under the uppermost part of the bridges to try and keep the wind from cutting so much. That's where a lot of problems come from. The core temperature is bad enough but the wind on top of it makes it 10 times worse.”
Cooperative Community Ministry offers financial assistance to families needing help with their heat. Peggy Sparks, an office assistant at CCM, on Monday said more than 60 families came in needing help to purchase home-heating fuel, from natural gas to kerosene.
“We've been inundated with people coming in today,” Sparks said Monday. “Our lobby has been packed all day. We're trying to keep them warm over the next few days. It's supposed to be dangerously cold.”
According to the National Weather Service, the arctic air should move out by Wednesday afternoon but nighttime temperatures will register well below freezing. Such cold temperatures also can be dangerous for pets as well.
To donate cold weather supplies such as blankets or food, call The Shepherd's Inn at 240-4006 or CCM at 476-1842.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.