Ocean Springs church offers escape from the cold

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The building started as a gym, and post-Katrina, served as a supply distribution site. This weekend, the structure is undergoing a new transformation.

It's a shelter, offering beds and hot meals for those battling the frigid weather without a heated home.

"You're going to die out there," said David Deakle of Friday's temperatures. "Its cold!"

Friday's temperatures dropped below 20 degrees, the coldest so far of the week-long wintry weather.

Instead of braving the elements, David Deakle slept in one of the 14 beds at Emmanuel Baptist Church's temporary shelter.

"Oh, it's good, they're nice people," Deakle said. "If it weren't for them, we'd be outside in the rain, cold."

Darrel Holloway and his wife helped at the shelter through the night. Holloway said when church members heard of the low temperatures, they just couldn't let their heated gym sit empty.

"Once they realized that [the temperatures] would go down to the teens and with the wind chill close to zero, they said now we can make it possible through the help of other people in the community," said Holloway. "When the police see somebody that needs a place, they can bring them here, and we'll pick them up for the night and provide them with a place to rest their head and take a shower."

Holloway said this is the church's first time to open its doors as a shelter. Thanks to donations from church members, the city and community, they have 14 beds, several coats and jackets, plenty of blankets and hot meals for anyone in need.

Doors locked at nine Friday night, but Holloway encouraged anyone in need of shelter to come anyway.

"Just knock on the door," Holloway said. "We'll open the door. We're going to have people from the church here all night, and hopefully the other people that have been out in the cold can rest and be warm for a night."

The shelter is open all weekend for those who make sleeping arrangements day by day.

"I want to stay warm until tomorrow," Deakle said. "I'll be fine tomorrow."

Emmanuel Baptist Church is located at 401 Holcomb Boulevard in Ocean Springs. Church members expect to open their doors again Saturday night and Sunday if necessary.

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