Georgia warming shelters open ahead of winter freeze
LISTEN: Temperatures are dropping into the teens overnight. In order to help those without adequate housing, state and local officials are opening warming centers. But as GPB’s Amanda Andrews reports, there may not be enough beds for everyone.
Overnight temperatures are dropping into the teens this week as a wave of arctic air moves across Georgia. Local officials and community organizers are mobilizing to open warming shelters for people without housing.
A survey of homelessness in Atlanta shows there are about 2,017 people without housing living in the city. When temperatures fall below 32 degrees, the city of Atlanta and its partner organizations automatically open warming centers for homeless youth and adults.
Covenant House is one of those partners. Chief Programs Officer Alfred Garner said encouragement is critical in their outreach, so people feel comfortable sleeping in their facilities.
“They may not be trusting of systems and people to be able to assist them because they've been failed before, and they may not be ready to come into the residential portion of Covenant House,” Garner said.
Covenant House’s warming shelter is open to young adults aged 18 to 24. In total, Atlanta has 458 beds available: enough for only a quarter of the city’s homeless population.
In response to that shortage, mutual aid organizations like Sol Underground have raised funds to create their own warming station called Sol Below.
Sunny Leon first had the idea to create Sol Below about three years ago over a meal with friends. They said the biggest complaint they heard from unhoused people was poor treatment in city shelters.
“Every time we do Sol Below, at least once a week, we meet somebody who is like, 'yeah, they wouldn't let me in,' or 'they kicked me out because I asked for food,'” Leon said.
Leon said Sol Below provides shelter to around 100 people during cool nights typically from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Warming centers run by the city will also be open at Old Adamsville Recreation Center and Central Park until Dec. 27.
Georgia state parks are also open offering warming stations for stranded drivers or residents facing power outages.