Shelters attempt to protect homeless from bitter cold - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Shelters attempt to protect homeless from bitter cold

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The Salvation Army shelter has prepared many beds for homeless people needing escape from frigid temperatures. The Salvation Army shelter has prepared many beds for homeless people needing escape from frigid temperatures.

As the temperatures drop below freezing, many homeless shelters in Huntsville are opening their doors to those who need a warm place to sleep.

Tuesday, a homeless man in downtown Birmingham died of hypothermia. The temperature there two nights ago is comparable to those in Huntsville Thursday night.

According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, 700 people who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless die from hypothermia every year in the US. 

Shelters in Huntsville are trying to do everything possible to prevent people from suffering a similar fate.

Every bed at the Salvation Army in Huntsville was full Thursday night. Even the hallways were lined with people sleeping on cots.

"We try to make sure we get everybody in that we possibly can," said James Stewart. "We have cots down there so when the men's side gets completely full, we will put cots out. We have actually had people sleeping on the floor."

Such is the protocol on nights like Thursday when the temperature dips below freezing.

"That guy in Birmingham passed away because he was out in the cold. We don't want that happening here. We want to try to keep people safe and have them a place to stay, as opposed to them sleeping on the street," said Stewart.

During the winter, the Salvation Army often opens its doors to almost anyone, and the rules are a little more relaxed. "Sometimes things happen with certain people and we have to make them leave the property," Stewart said. "But as the temperature drops, we will let those people back in."

Unfortunately, they do have to limit the number of guests when it just gets too crowded.

"I have had to turn folks away. I hate to do it because they are going to be in the cold, but you reach that point to where there is just no more room," Stewart said.

All the extra people means the need for more supplies. Right now, the shelter is running low on such high-demand items as blankets, towels, soap and toothpaste.

With winter just getting underway, the shelter is really depending on donations. If you would like to donate, you can bring items to the shelter on Seminole Drive, or the thrift store on Oakwood Avenue in Huntsville.

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