Shelters encouraging everyone to come inside

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 28, 2013 at 4:22 PM

This week’s blast of wintery weather has Johnson City’s two emergency shelters encouraging everyone who is outdoors and without a warm place to sleep to come in from the cold.

“If they come to our door, we will not turn them away,” said Marc May, assistance director of the Haven of Mercy shelter for men on East Millard Street.

“As always, when the weather gets inclement, we see a peak in demand. Our bed capacity is pretty close to full but we’ve been fortunate to receive a lot of donations and we will never say no.

“We have plenty of blankets, comforters and sheets. We have cots and extra pillows. We have plenty of chairs around. We can open up our dining room and make beds on the floor if we need to.

“If they come to our door and want to come in, we will not turn them away. We will find a way to make it happen,” May said.

With up to three inches of snow forecast for the lower elevations and today’s high temperature expected to hover in the mid-30s, the Salvation Army shelter for men, women and children is flying its white flag to signal everyone to come in out the dangerous weather.

As it is anytime the temperature dips below freezing, the shelter’s white flag has been out for most of the past week.

Scott Blevins, director of the Salvation Army Center of Hope on Ashe Street that houses shelter as well as the army’s emergency dining room, said the extremely low nighttime temperatures have been filling an average of 12 to 14 additional beds at the shelter nightly.

“We’ve brought out the cots twice in the past week,” he said. “We’ve had people who were traveling and stranded here stay with us a few days until they could get going again. We have had a lot of people come in who have been sleeping in their cars. And we had one family that we got right into an apartment in a one day turn around for us.

“Their problem was they had three dogs and they were emotionally attached to the dogs. They couldn’t find a place and just wouldn’t give them up so they were sleeping with the dogs in their car. They came in about 11 o’clock and about 3 o’clock they were in their own apartment. That was a rarity ,but we networked with other agencies and made that happen.”

Salvation Army commander Captain Nick Garrison said, “We just want to make sure everyone has a safe place to stay and we’re more than glad to open our doors for everybody to come in.”

The Salvation Army shelter is located at 203 Ashe Street. The Haven of Mercy shelter is located at 123 East Millard Street.

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