Cold Weather Fills Shelter to Capacity

By: Anna-Lysa Gayle Email
By: Anna-Lysa Gayle Email

Harrisonburg, Va. (WHSV) -- Monday lines formed outside of the First Presbyterian Church on Court Square in Harrisonburg.

"It's cold out here. I mean there's people sitting out here, just freezing to death," said Roger Thompson, who is homeless.

People like Roger Thompson who depend on the shelter Open Doors for warmth waited in hats, gloves and layers.

Executive Director of the Open Doors program said Monday they reached capacity at the shelter, which is uncommon.

The program accepted forty homeless individuals on Monday night. It has only happened about four times this year.

"But, we know that sometimes we have to be flexible, when it comes to extreme circumstances like weather," said Rachel Hundley, who is the Executive Director of Open Doors.

With a wind chill warning in effect until 6 p.m., homeless individuals here in the Valley will get to sleep here a little longer than usual."

Tuesday the shelter will close at 7:30 a.m., instead of the usual 7 a.m.

"Doesn't seem like a lot, it's just an extra half an hour, but that half an hour will allow for everyone to stay warm and then go to 'Our Community Place when they open at 7:30 a.m.," said Hundley.

The shelter opens at 6:30 p.m. each day.

On cold days like this, Thompson is calling for the community to build more long-term shelters.

"Why don't we just get a building for the homeless people for all year round, instead of just six months out of the year," said Thompson.

Hundley said safety is also a priority when the shelter is filled.

Each person who enters the shelter is asked if they have a weapon and if they do, they leave it at the front.

The number to call Open Doors, if you need a place to stay during the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. is 540-578-3869.

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