Homeless shelters expand capacities ahead of weekend temperature dip

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte homeless shelters are scrambling to accommodate extra guests as the cold is scheduled to dip far below freezing this weekend.

"It bites being out here when it's cold," a woman who wants to be called "Kim" says.

Many who usually sleep on the street are finding sanctuary in shelters across the city.

"We never have enough beds," Dale Mullennix of Urban Ministry Center says. "So as a community we've got to address that challenge."

As the county has not yet made plans to open emergency warming shelters, Charlotte homeless shelters are adding emergency beds and urging people to come inside.

"Some people have had bad experiences in shelters, so they feel like, I don't know if I want to risk that again, and some cases they have pets, and we don't have any way to accommodate their pet," Mullennix says.

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The Urban Ministry Center's "Room in the Inn" program involves 130 local congregations during the winter months, opening their doors to the city's homeless. Many of those churches this weekend are also adding more beds, to accommodate the cold.

The county says there is no plan yet to open its emergency shelters, because the weather has not hit the requirements to do so.

"We really make that a last resort, and try to improve the capacity at the other shelters," Director of Homeless Services Peter Safir says.

The county's requirements to open shelters including things like a wind chill of less than 10, or special instruction from the fire marshal or medic.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people will seek refuge in city shelters Friday night alone.

"It's hard to stay out here at night," Kim says. "The downtown area is like a wind tunnel."

Shelters working double time this weekend include the Men's Shelter on Tryon, The Salvation Army Women's Shelter and Urban Ministry Center churches. They are all asking for blankets, warm clothing, and beds.

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