With overnight temperatures dropping into the teens and single digits, the services provided by local shelters and day programs have advanced from a daily lifeline for folks who live on the streets to a literal matter of life or death.
The threat of freezing to death is very real and, across the board, nonprofit homeless programs in the city are going the extra mile.
At the Johnson City Salvation Army Center of Hope at 200 Ashe St., dangerous cold fronts like these are known as “white flag conditions.” It’s a reference to the white flag that flies outside the shelter any time temperatures fall below freezing, signaling the risk and the special accommodations that are being made.
Cots are set up to provide more overnight sleeping capacity and the men’s and women’s community rooms are open all day for anyone who wishes to to stay warm inside.
“The flag is out, the cots are up and people are coming in,” Jim Stark, the shelter’s longtime booth monitor, said about two hours before sunset Wednesday.
“We had an awful lot come in last night but we’ve got room. There is no deadline” for checking in, Stark said.
For those who wish to help, the shelter’s ongoing needs include more blankets, pillows, twin-sized bed sheets, towels and hygiene items for the extra number of people it is serving.
With more folks at the shelter, the center’s kitchen is also serving larger crowds and can best be assisted with monetary donations that may be made across the street at the Salvation Army office, or by mail to Johnson City Salvation Army, 204 W. Walnut St., Johnson City, TN 37604. More information about needs at the shelter may be obtained by calling 423-926-2101.
At the Johnson City (Downtown) Day Center at 202 W. Fairview Ave., the doors are typically open from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. But with this morning’s low forecast to drop to 9 degrees, Executive Director Jennifer Whitehead alerted the staff Wednesday afternoon that she would open the center at 5 a.m. today so those who need to could come inside.
This week’s rush at the center began on Tuesday when temperatures dropped below freezing and continued to fall throughout the day. By day’s end, 61 people had signed in at the door, although some may have been missed as things got hectic in the afternoon.
The day center’s numbers fell off slightly Wednesday as shelters allowed their residents to stay through the day.
Things most in the need at the day center were disposable hand warmer packets, mens’ gloves and coats, thermal underwear for men and women, nutritious snacks and single-serving food items, plastic spoons, toiletries, laundry detergent pods and dryer sheets. More information about the day center may be obtained by calling 423-439-7371.
A check with the Haven of Mercy shelter at 123 W. Millard St. revealed the shelter has been full all week and is also feeling the strain of the weather. More information about the Haven may be obtained by calling 423-929-0616.