• Local shelters increase capacity for homeless, officials say

    By: Joe Bruno


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Several local shelters have increased capacity because of the intense cold temperatures.

    The Salvation Army, Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Room in the Inn have added additional beds, blankets and cots for people to get out of the cold.

    Because of the increased capacity space, county leaders said there is no plan to open an emergency warming center overnight.

    The Salvation Army Center of Hope and Men’s Shelter of Charlotte are open during the day and the evening. The Urban Ministry Center is open during the day and individuals can go there to sign up for Room in the Inn overnight shelter. The Urban Ministry Outreach Team will also continue to visit homeless individuals in camps and outdoor areas to encourage them to come to the shelters and arrange transportation if needed. Sleeping bags will be provided to those who refuse to come.

    The shelters are located at the following addresses:

    • Salvation Army Center of Hope (534 Spratt Street, Charlotte)
    • Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (1210 North Tryon Street, Charlotte)
    • Urban Ministry Center (945 North College Street, Charlotte)

    On Wednesday, local leaders called on the county to reconsider opening warming shelters.

    Commissioner Pat Cotham said the county is being harsh by not opening up an emergency shelter during the frigid temperatures.



    The county fixed the heat in the Grady Cole Center with another night of bone-chilling air set to pound Charlotte.

    The center is where the emergency warming center will be located should the county need it.

    Mecklenburg County manager Dena Diorio said she isn't heartless for keeping homeless out in the cold.

    [LINK: Room in the Inn]

    Some of the homeless will flock to shelters, but many will spend the night outside.

    “These are people. I think we do more for pets sometimes than we do for people,” said Commissioner Pat Cotham, Democrat at large.

    Fed up with the county's inaction, Cotham purchased hand and feet warmers to distribute to the homeless Wednesday.



    County leaders said they won't open up an emergency shelter unless certain criteria is met, such as a sustained windchill factor of 10 degrees for a full day, no adequate space in shelters and a 20 percent increase in calls to 911 about the weather.

    “We are not a shelter. We do not provide shelter,” Diorio said.

    Diorio stands by the decision to not open an emergency warming station.

    “Under extenuating circumstances we will open a warming station, but if there is enough capacity to house people who need a shelter like a situation like this then we will not open our shelter,” Diorio said.

    Cotham isn’t buying the reasoning.

    “I think the county could do more even if we only had a few families there. It would still be worth it to me,” Cotham said.

    The Red Cross checked out the Grady Cole Center Wednesday and is on standby in case an emergency shelter needs to open.

    Local churches are stepping in to keep people from sleeping on the streets or in cars.

    This week, nearly 200 people have been able to stay in churches through the Urban Ministry Center's Room in the Inn program.

    Some churches like Myers Park Baptist Church have taken on extra nights.

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