GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When temperatures drop, many who don't have a place to call home are forced into desperate situations.
"The homeless this time of year are just simply trying to stay out of the cold," said Gulfport Fire Department Training Chief Tim Holliman.
One way to stay warm could have extreme consequences. Like at an abandoned Gulfport home on Oakleigh Ave. that burned earlier this week. Holliman said someone seeking shelter and warmth caused the fire.
"Looks like they set it in the middle of the room and they didn't have it contained in any form or fashion," said Holliman. "They just set the fire on the floor and left it unattended, ultimately it set the house on fire."
The man accused of starting the fire, Willie Donyell McIntosh, is charged with trespassing and arson. Holliman explained abandon structure fires can be one of the most dangerous kinds of blazes for fire fighters.
"We are putting our people at risk or in harm's way by putting them in these type structures that are abandoned and are in disarray or are falling in," said Holliman. "We never know if there's somebody in the structure or not, so we're having to go through and search to see if the structure is clear."
Help is available for the homeless. Morgan Shiyou with the Salvation Army said the homeless can turn to her organization if they need help staying warm.
"We do offer amenities for shelter and staying warm, food, clothing," Shiyou said. "We offer all of this, so it's available they just need to come to us and say we need it."
According to Shiyou, the Salvation Army has a shelter open every day in Pascagoula. Also, a cold weather shelter opens in Gulfport when temperatures drop below 40 degrees. That shelter, located at 2019 22nd Street, is scheduled to be open Sunday and Monday.
Help is needed to man the cold weather shelter. If you'd like to volunteer, you can call (228) 861-1360.