Offering warmth in the South

The Salvation Army offers shelter amid freezing temperatures.

Men gather outside a Salvation Army cold weather shelter. [Photo by Jill Black]

As arctic air and record snowfalls gripped the Southern U.S. this winter, The Salvation Army worked to keep people warm. The Southern Territory reports the following:

Alabama: Major Darrell Kingsbury of the Calhoun County Salvation Army said the local branch has an inclement weather plan that’s implemented whenever temperatures dip below 40 degrees.

“We’re already full with our regular capacity at this point, but we sort of relax some of our admission requirements [under the inclement weather plan],” he said. “We have alcohol limits, but if they’re below a certain level, we let them in because we don’t want anybody freezing.”

The Salvation Army provides hot food, coffee, hot chocolate, hot showers, coats and laundry, among other services.

“We pull out pallets and vinyl-covered sleeping mats,” Kingsbury said. “At least they’ll be some place warm. We try to take care of them like we’d want our own children taken care of.”

The men’s shelter has room for about 20, and the women and children’s shelter can accommodate 16-18, Kingsbury said.

“We try not to turn anybody away,” he said. “We find a way to take care of them.”

Tennessee: In Nashville, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and the Nashville Red Cross, the Army brought out the mobile feeding canteen to assist the Second Harvest Food Bank with the distribution of warm meals and clothing to homeless clients at a Red Cross warming shelter.

“The Salvation Army will continue to meet the need of our vulnerable homeless population during this freeze alert,” said Nashville Salvation Army Area Commander, Major Rob Vincent. “We also took our soup wagon service under the Jefferson Street Bridge to offer transportation to the shelter and warm outerwear.”

In Chattanooga, The Salvation Army opened a night shelter for homeless women to offer protection from the elements.
“The extreme cold is just too dangerous,” said Major Jim Lawrence, Salvation Army Area Commander. “That’s why we’ll continue to provide food and shelter in a warm, safe place as long as these emergency-related efforts are needed.”

The Homeless Women’s Shelter is currently able to house up to 20 women and one family. The Salvation Army also houses 27 men in its transitional program.

Texas: Salvation Army shelters remained open 24 hours a day with extra cots, air mattresses and blankets to accommodate the increased demand for beds. Army church buildings were also used as “warming centers” and overflow housing for the homeless and stranded travelers. As temperatures dropped well below 32 degrees, The Salvation Army provided shelter to an estimated 2,000 individuals nightly.

Mobile feeding units continue to stand by across the state, ready to be deployed with hot food and drinks to areas known for homelessness. In some cases these units will also stock blankets, socks, hats and gloves.

Virginia: Governor-elect Bob McDonnell recently named The Salvation Army as an honorary partner in his inauguration week, themed “A Commonwealth of Opportunity.”

“The Salvation Army works in every city and county in the Commonwealth to comfort, clothe and care for the less fortunate,” McDonnell said. “It is an honor to join with them as part of Inaugural Week.”

As an honorary partner, The Salvation Army joined the governor-elect at various events from January 8-17 to promote McDonnell’s statewide coat drive. Personnel from The Salvation Army assisted with coat collection and will work to distribute the coats to individuals in need throughout the state.

“Virginians face high unemployment, fiscal pressures and uncertainty about their economic prospects,” McDonnell said. “Yet, Virginians generously volunteer their time, talents and treasure to help each other. And their selfless actions are crucial in the effort to build ‘A Commonwealth of Opportunity’ for all of our citizens.”

West Virginia: Hoping to limit the number of homeless individuals entering emergency rooms for weather-related injuries, the Huntington City Mission and The Salvation Army are collaborating to keep everyone warm and safe.

“When I saw that they were really over full, that they’ve taken in about as many as they can handle, I thought, we have the facility and it’s time for us to go to the next step and open up a shelter,” said Captain Bob Mullins, Huntington corps officer.

The Huntington Corps opened the temporary shelter as temperatures dipped into the teens.

“The second night has seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of homeless coming in for a warm bed and hot meals,” Mullins said. “We have more than 40 tonight and expect that number to grow as the temperatures drop. The shelter will stay open as long as there is a need.”

From a Southern Territorial news release

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