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Where's the warmth?: Search for warming shelters in Huntsville continues

As the temperatures drop, people are looking for ways to stay warm. But warming shelters are not an option in Huntsville.

Posted: Dec 27, 2017 5:46 PM
Updated: Dec 28, 2017 5:25 PM

Temperatures are dipping down, and they'll continue to drop lower throughout the week.

That means many people will be turning their heat up.

But what about those who can't afford to turn up the heat? Or the homeless?

WAAY 31 decided to dig into the city's public warming options and find out why there are no permanent warming shelters in Huntsville.

Instead, they rely on agencies like the Downtown Rescue Mission to provide warmth for anyone who may need it when the temperatures start to drop.

“The cold weather, it’s a real challenge for us," said Drew Wiley.

Wiley speaks for many people in Huntsville when he says places like the Downtown Rescue Mission and Salvation Army are home during these cold winter months.

In fact, so many people depend on these agencies that overcrowding has become an issue.

“Right now, we have 50 available beds on the men’s program side. All 50 of them are full at the moment and I have a waiting list of people trying to get in. And even more now when it’s cold outside, people trying to come in," said Adam Casey with the Downtown Rescue Mission. "So yeah, definitely a problem. The women’s side is the same, I’m certain.”

Casey says they could always use help when it comes to having enough space.

So WAAY 31 went straight to the city and Madison County Emergency Management to find out why there are no official warming shelters.

Emergency management told us they haven't received any requests for warming shelters in the past, so they didn’t feel one was needed.

The city focused its response on the homeless, saying, compared to other cities, Huntsville has a significantly small homeless population.

But others we talked with say differently.

“There are a lot more homeless than what we know," Wiley says. "They live in the woods, in tents, and it’s terrible. Especially when it gets this cold."

And it’s not just homeless people who need help.

WAAY 31 talked with officials at Huntsville Utilities who say they have a program with the Salvation Army called Project Share, where people can add extra money to their utility bills to help those who need heat in their homes.

But no matter how you look at it, it's getting colder across the Tennessee Valley.

“You don’t escape that. You don’t escape that cold at all," Sarah Shepherd said. "It comes through your tent, it gets colder, you just get to where you can’t feel your hands, you can’t feel your feet. And then you get to a point where you can’t even warm up. And it hurts, it physically hurts your body."

City officials tell WAAY 31 that some churches open sporadically as warming shelters when the weather gets extremely cold.

They say you can always call 211 to find out what resources are available.

And for those who are staying in unheated homes, Captain Frank McKenzie with the Huntsville Fire Department says to make sure you’re wearing layers and you’re not using your oven to heat your home.

He also wants to remind everyone that if you’re going to use space heaters, make sure you plug them directly into the wall, instead of into a power strip.

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