Open Doors shelter extends hours for inclement weather

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 5:25 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - With freezing rain and sleet falling throughout the day on Thursday, Open Doors thermal shelter in Harrisonburg remained open throughout the day to provide a warm and safe place for Harrisonburg’s homeless population.

Open Doors is typically just an overnight shelter but made the change on Thursday because of the weather. The shelter rotates each week between host churches and was at Massanetta Springs Conference Center on Thursday.

“We rely on volunteers for our meal service every evening for dinner so we had to make adjustments to provide breakfast and lunch so that’s a big component of things. Then we tried to bring activities like games so guests had things to do throughout the day,” said Nate Riddle, Open Doors Operations Director.

Massanetta Springs also pretreated roads leading into the center and provided backup generators in case of a power outage.

While Open Doors normally closes at 7 a.m. each morning it is able to provide all-day shelter during weather events through its partnership with Our Community Place to help staff the shelter. Two staff members from each organization were on-hand at all times on Thursday to ensure there were enough people to run the shelter.

Open Doors hopes to be able to expand its capacity in future winter storms.

“We did reduce our capacity to 40 with the rotating model but we’re evaluating ways that we can partner with community organizations so we can expand that in inclement weather events so there’s more to come on that,” said Riddle.

The shelter has also worked throughout the winter to provide warm clothing for its guests.

“This is why we ask for gloves, toboggans, hats, scarves, hand warmers, and toe warmers, so the guests if they aren’t able to receive our services during this inclement weather for one reason or another, that they have those things to help them fair the elements,” said Riddle.

With Open Doors operating on the rotating shelter model, it does currently have a big need. It is urgently looking for a host for the Week of January 2-9, the only week of its thermal shelter season that it does not have a host for.

“All we need is the building. We provide full staffing, we can provide meal service, and go from there. So we really just need a suitable building that can host 40 guests, it can be anywhere in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County,” said Riddle.

Anyone interested in helping out Open Doors can get in touch with them here.