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[UPDATE] Plan Ready for Cold Night Sheltering

[UPDATE] 12-3 1:40PM --

With low temperatures forecasted to remain above the 35-degree threshold, the temporary cold night shelter will be closed both tonight and Saturday night. However, the current weather forecast for Sunday night indicates temperatures will be at or below 35 degrees for three or more hours, and thus the temporary cold night shelter will be open Sunday night, Dec. 5. Any adult who needs temporary shelter from cold weather Sunday night may stay at the former Belle Vue Middle School (shelter located in the school’s gymnasium), 2214 Belle Vue Way.

The temporary shelter, coordinated by the Big Bend Homeless Coalition with assistance from local government, human service agencies and the local faith-based community, will open at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, remain open overnight and will close Monday morning at 7 a.m. The facility is open to adults only. A total of 36 guests used the facility last night, including 33 men and 3 women. Officials will reconvene Monday morning to discuss operational plans beyond Sunday as another cold front approaches the area with current forecasts calling for below-freezing temperatures Sunday through Wednesday, Dec. 8.

StarMetro, the City of Tallahassee’s mass transit system, provides transportation between The Shelter on West Tennessee Street and the temporary location at Belle Vue Middle School, when open. Two trips are scheduled, with departures from The Shelter at 8:30 p.m. and a second at 9:30 p.m. if required. Return trips to The Shelter from the temporary location depart the following morning at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.

Volunteers from the local faith-based community will provide assistance at the Belle Vue location, with Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church volunteers leading Sunday night’s effort. Snacks and water will be available for those staying the night. The facility has showers available in addition to cots and blankets being provided by the Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. Security is maintained by staff from the Big Bend Homeless Coalition.

For more information or for volunteer opportunities at the temporary shelter location, including donations of food, towels, other supplies and funding, please call the Big Bend Homeless Coalition at 205-6021 or 205-6005, or visit the Coalition’s website at www.bigbendhc.org.

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[UPDATE] 12-2 1:00pm --

With low temperatures forecasted to once again drop below 35 degrees for three or more hours tonight, a team of area human service agencies, local government and the faith-based community will open a temporary cold night shelter. Any adult who needs temporary shelter from cold weather tonight may stay at the former Belle Vue Middle School (shelter located in the school’s gymnasium), 2214 Belle Vue Way. The temporary shelter, coordinated by the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, will open at 8 p.m., remain open overnight and will close Friday morning at 7 a.m. The facility is open to adults only.

The shelter was opened for the first time this fall/winter season last night. A total of 30 guests used the facility, including 27 men and 3 women. After tonight, the facility will NOT be open Friday night or Saturday night, unless changes in the forecast indicate colder weather. Officials will reconvene over the weekend to discuss operational plans for early next week as another cold front approaches the area.

StarMetro, the City of Tallahassee’s mass transit system, will provide transportation between The Shelter on West Tennessee Street and the temporary location at Belle Vue Middle School. Two trips are scheduled, with departures from The Shelter at 8:30 p.m. and a second at 9:30 p.m. if required. Return trips to The Shelter from the temporary location will depart Friday at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.

Volunteers from the local faith-based community will provide assistance at the Belle Vue location, with United Church in Tallahassee volunteers leading this evening’s effort. Snacks and water will be available for those staying the night. The facility has showers available in addition to cots and blankets being provided by the Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. Security will be maintained by staff from the Big Bend Homeless Coalition.

For more information or for volunteer opportunities at the temporary shelter location, including donations of food, towels, other supplies and funding, please call the Big Bend Homeless Coalition at 205-6021 or 205-6005, or visit the Coalition’s website at www.bigbendhc.org.

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Updated 11-30 5:51pm

For the more than 700 homeless people in the Tallahassee area, the weather that can pose a dangerous threat.

Now, a plan is being put into action to protect those in need from the cold.

At the beginning of this year, our region broke the record for number of days of freezing temperatures.

Local officials caught heat for the people who were left out on the street in the cold.

This time around, community leaders say they will not be caught off guard by old man Frost.

Heinry Yoder walks to The Shelter in Tallahassee.

But, he says it's when the temperature drops on some nights that even when he makes it to the homeless shelter, he still may be left out in the cold.

Yoder said, "The worst thing that can be is when it's cold and raining. Then you're going to be soaked. It's all about getting into your bones and it's hard to get dry."

When The Shelter does reach capacity, The Big Bend Homeless Coalition will open the former Belle Vue Middle School as a cold weather shelter.

It's a part of the coalition's Cold Night Sheltering Plan that was just released.

It will go into effect if the weather drops to 35 degrees or below.

Yoder said, "When it's colder than 30 degrees, it's like you're shivering in a blanket and it's not even providing enough warmth. If you don't got enough blankets, then you will stay cold."

Last winter, a cold snap throughout our region left many homeless people without shelter or resources.

This year, cots, blankets, linens, and showers will be provided in the vacant school building, with room for up to 100 people.

This is good news to Maria Martinez who says she's one of almost 60 women who sleeps at The Shelter, and says there are twice as many men.

Martinez said, "Because of all the women and everybody there, you get a cold from one somebody, then somebody else catches that cold, and then you catch it back. It's just not enough space."

The cold night shelter will not be open continuously, but only when activated by local emergency management professionals. The plan will be activated whenever the temperature--taking into account wind chill and other factor--is forecast to be 35 degrees or below for three hours or longer.

The news comes just at the right time, because temperatures are expected to drop down in the 20s later this week.

The City of Tallahassee will provide bus transportation.

Overflow guests will be picked up from The Shelter at 8:30PM and 9:30PM, and transported back to The Shelter the following morning.

Volunteers for the cold night shelter are needed. Please see the press release below for details.

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PRESS RELEASE

PLAN READY FOR COLD NIGHT SHELTERING

Under the leadership of the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, the community’s plan for Cold Night Sheltering is in place and ready for the freezing temperatures coming our way.
Last year, a series of very cold nights caught the community by surprise, leaving nonprofits and local government working in the midst of a crisis to provide shelter for those who were homeless or otherwise needing warm shelter.
“What happened last year will not happen again in our community. We began planning months ago to make sure we had a solid plan in place this year,” said Susan Pourciau, Executive Director of the Big Bend Homeless Coalition. “The Homeless Coalition has made a promise to the community that we will provide cold night sheltering as long as it is needed this winter.”
“This is only possible because so many community partners have come together to make it possible,” added Pourciau. Partners include the City of Tallahassee, Leon County, the faith community, and other nonprofits.
This year, cold night sheltering will be provided in the gymnasium of the former Belle Vue Middle School. The Belle Vue cold night shelter site will provide room for up to 100 men and women seeking shelter from the cold. Showers will also be available on a first-come first-served basis. The Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross is providing cots and blankets. Linens will be laundered courtesy of the Leon County Sheriff’s Department.
Bus transportation from downtown will be provided by the City of Tallahassee. Overflow guests will be picked up from The Shelter at 8:30PM and 9:30PM on nights that the cold night shelter is activated, and transported back to The Shelter the following morning. “The cold night shelter is intended to supplement – not replace – The Shelter as the primary emergency shelter. Anyone in need of shelter should go to The Shelter on Tennessee Street. Overflow guests will be transported to the cold night shelter site by bus,” explained Pourciau.
The cold night shelter will not be open continuously, but only when activated by local emergency management professionals. The cold night shelter plan will be activated whenever the apparent temperature (taking into account wind chill and other factors) is forecast to be 35 degrees or below for three hours or longer. This weather trigger was established by Leon County and City of Tallahassee emergency management staff based on research by the Leon County Health Department. The Leon County Emergency Management Department monitors the weather forecasts, in coordination with the National Weather Service, and alerts the Homeless Coalition when the forecast calls for activation of the cold night shelter. When that activation takes place, media will also be informed.
Pastor Brant Copeland of First Presbyterian Church is coordinating faith community volunteers to help with cold night sheltering. Each faith group is asked to commit to volunteer a specific night of each month (e.g., the first Thursday of the month), in the event the cold night shelter is open on that night. The cold night shelter will be operated by professional staff from the Homeless Coalition, supported by volunteers.
“Clearly this is a community effort,” reiterated Pourciau. “We stepped out in faith when we committed to operating a cold night shelter with no funding. Now we are looking to the community to help support the effort.”
Needs include: (1) financial donations to pay expenses such as utilities and security; (2) towels, washcloths, and blankets; (3) nonperishable single-serving food items to make brown bag breakfasts; (4) supplies and hygiene items (soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, disposable razors, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.).

Financial donations may be made online at www.bigbendhc.org, or by mailing checks to the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, 2729 West Pensacola Street, Tallahassee, FL 32304. Donations of towels, nonperishable food, hygiene items, shelter supplies, and blankets may be dropped off at 2729 West Pensacola, 8AM-5PM, Monday-Friday.
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For more information, call Susan Pourciau at 850-205-6005 or 850-274-9764, or email her at spourciau@bigbendhc.org

The Big Bend Homeless Coalition is the lead agency for homelessness services and housing in the Big Bend. The mission of the Homeless Coalition is to end homelessness in the Big Bend through leadership, education, advocacy, and the provision of quality services. The Big Bend Homeless Coalition is supported by the United Way of the Big Bend, the City of Tallahassee, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and private donations. The Homeless Coalition provides emergency services, transitional housing, and permanent housing to empower people to move out of homelessness and into stable housing.


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