Local agencies work to shield vulnerable citizens from the cold

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 23, 2014 

Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Ronald Jackson,left, and Cleotis Witherspoon place blankets and pillows on portable cots Thursday afternoon at the Chattahoochee Valley Jail Ministry SafeHouse in Columbus. Jackson said they had 10 cots they were preparing for people who didn't have a warm place to stay tonight. 0 1/23/14

MIKE HASKEY — mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

More than two weeks after a homeless man died from exposure to the cold, local agencies across the Chattahoochee Valley are busy gearing up to make sure people who want warm shelter are able to find it.

Below freezing temperatures are in the forecast almost every night for the next week. But some of the homeless in Columbus will choose not to find a cold weather shelter despite the low temperatures.

"We have several local agencies taking people in and not turning anyone away," said Christie Bevis, executive director of Home For Good: The Alliance to End Homelessness.

The group is currently in charge of implementing the city's 10-year plan to end homelessness. It is under the umbrella of the United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley.

Bevis said about 1,500 people are experiencing homelessness here and last year the Homeless Resource Network served 227 chronically homeless who stayed on the street.

"I was talking with a woman under the bridge on Veterans Parkway and she told me she was just going to hunker down and fight the cold," Bevis said. "Some just don't want to leave their belongings. Others don't believe it's going to be that bad."

Bevis said SafeHouse, Valley Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, House of Mercy, Trinity House and Damascus Way all provide shelter.

"We are moving stuff around and making room for cots," said Ronald Jackson, SafeHouse manager. "We will have a place for people to come in and get some rest and stay warm. We'll have some coffee, some soup."

The SafeHouse, a project of the Chattahoochee Valley Jail Ministry, is a resource center that supplies information to those who have been released from jail and others in need. SafeHouse's goal is to help people successfully transition back into the community.

Ten cots have been brought to the building but more will be added if needed, Jackson said. He said SafeHouse will maintain the cold weather shelter until Saturday at 4 p.m., but it may stay open later if necessary.

"No questions are going to be asked of anybody," he said.

Jackson said it's important that these cold weather shelters are provided.

"We have recently had someone die from the cold on the streets of Columbus," he said. "We don't want that to happen again."

To contact Safehouse, 1007 Seventh Ave., call 706-322-3773.

Rhonda Mobley, Valley Rescue Mission executive director, said the mission normally has 36 beds but is adding 10 more because of the cold. She said the mission has been operating at capacity.

Mobley said because of the very cold mornings, people are being allowed to stay longer. She said heaters and blankets are needed for people who have housing but inadequate heating.

To contact the Valley Rescue Mission, 2903 Second Ave., call 706-327-8267.

Other shelters include:

The Salvation Army, which operates a shelter for men at 1718 Second Ave.. For information, call 706-327-0275.

The House of Mercy, 1532 Third Ave., is a shelter for men, women and children. For information, call 322-6463.

Trinity House, a shelter for women, will provide additional bed space for homeless women and children. For information, call 706-641-8485.

Damascus Way is a shelter for women and children operated by Valley Rescue Mission at 1200 11th Ave. For information, call 706-653-2061.

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