Salvation Army, Red Cross open cold weather shelter

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - As temperatures plummeted in South Mississippi, people needing a place to stay had somewhere to turn. The Salvation Army opened its worship center on 22nd Street in Gulfport as a cold weather shelter.

The shelter is a partnership between the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. The Salvation Army is providing the space, the pillows and blankets and serving food. The Red Cross is providing cots and the staff to oversee the shelter overnight.

The shelter opened at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Officials say men, women, children, the homeless, people who didn't have heat in their homes, or anyone who needed to escape the cold was welcome.

The staff at a nearby soup kitchen say they are extremely concerned about the homeless during this cold snap.

Feed My Sheep Staff workers say some of the homeless people they serve sleep in the woods or in their cars. Normally, the soup kitchen only serves Monday through Friday. On Wednesday, Feed My Sheep officials said, because of the extreme cold, they will serve emergency meals on both Saturday and Sunday. Breakfast at 8 a.m. and lunch from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Wayne Favre oversees the soup kitchen.

"There are more people without jobs now that there's ever been, and we're here to serve people. That's our thing. We're dedicated to feeding people.  If you know some of them. Some of them probably won't go to a shelter even though it's open. They just don't want to be around people."

Major Will Cundiff of the Salvation Army says he also realizes that some homeless people won't want to go to the shelter. He says the Salvation Army will be out driving the streets looking for people to give out blankets and hot food.

Over at the shelter, the first job of the day for Red Cross volunteers was unloading cots. It would take several more trips to the Salvation Army in Gulfport to drop off blankets and whatever else needed to run a cold weather shelter.

Red Cross spokesperson Raemona Welder said, "We just don't want people to be out in the extreme elements. If people hadn't paid their utility bills, we don't want them staying in their house. They are welcome to come here, get a meal and spend the evening with us."

"In these days of economic downturn, it becomes extremely important for groups to network with each other," said Major Cundiff. "The monies are shorter and so everybody has to pull their resources in order to make it right. After all, this is not a thing where people are in competition with one another. This is the thing were we are in cooperation with each other to make the whole area a better place to live. This kind of thing, although it may just last a few days may save some lives and that's what we're all about. "

Salvation Army officials say they'll ask people to leave the shelter as the day warms up Thursday morning so they can clean up and if necessary prepare to open back up Thursday night.