Stone County hopes residents in need will use cold weather shelter

Stone County hopes residents in need will use cold weather shelter

With some of the lowest temperatures in South Mississippi headed this way, Stone County has opened up a cold weather shelter for only the second time. Officials are hoping that those who need it actually show up.

Sometimes it's hard for people to admit that they need help. Even when they are freezing. Judith Breland knows her county. She's worked with the Stone County Extension Service for 31 years, and she had heard the stories of need.

She's been a long-time advocate for cold-weather shelters. The first time this FEMA shelter in downtown Wiggins opened in November, few, if any, showed up. She blames it on lack of early communication. This time, she hopes, will be different.

"In a community that is a small community used to taking care of itself, it is hard for people to admit and to come out and say we need help," Breland said

The shelter, she said, isn't just for the homeless.

"I know there are folks out there who have run out of money for the heat or the cooling or whatever - whatever season it is," she said. "And so, they need help. You don't want them out there in the dark."

Right now, the accommodations are nominal with sandwich makings, hot coffee and cots with blankets. Breland said there really hasn't been anyone to pursue opening the shelter with the Board of Supervisors.

"I don't think anybody pushed the issue," she said. "I don't think anybody came to them with the intent of making it happen."

Now, she and Stone County Emergency Management Director Raven James work with the board.

"It's well received by the board of supervisors and they want us to really meet the citizens' needs."

Added Breland: "The community is very accepting. They're glad we're doing it. Now if the people who need the help will come, then I can justify it."

For more information on future openings of the shelter, call (601) 928-5286 or (601) 528-2720.

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