Cold a big challenge for homeless

PARKERSBURG – With temperatures dipping into the lower teens for the rest of the week, concerns have arisen over how the weather will affect the local homeless population.

These cold nights can be difficult to survive without shelter, said Camden Clark Medical Center emergency department physician Michael Dickerson. Hypothermia and frostbite are the result of a number of factors, with temperatures, wind chill, wetness, health conditions and clothing appropriateness all playing a part in the equation, said Dickerson.

It is important for the area homeless to stay dry and warm on these cold nights in order to remain healthy, said Dickerson.

No one in the city of Parkersburg needs to stay out in the cold, said Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin. The city has resources available to those needing shelter during the cold snap, and everyone should make use of the facilities available, said Martin.

One of the primary places for people to stay warm is the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army on Fifth Street in Parkersburg is offering a free coat to anyone who needs one, said Salvation Army Commander Lt. Mechelle Henry. Coats are provided, no questions asked, through the end of January, she said.

When the temperatures drop into these dangerous ranges, the homeless, who usually stay under the area bridges, will come in to the Salvation Army shelter for the night, said Henry.

Those who come to the Salvation Army for shelter will have to pass a drug test, said Henry. Once the test has been passed, no one is turned away for emergency shelter, said Henry.

The Salvation Army offers a hot dinner, served by volunteers, at 4:30 p.m. every day of the week, said Henry. “No one will be turned away from a hot meal, and there are never any questions asked,” said Henry.

When the temperatures drop like this at night, the Salvation Army is often filled to capacity and beyond, said Henry. The Salvation Army shelter has a capacity of 38 beds, said Henry.

“When it is cold like this and we run out of beds, we set up as many cots as we need in our dining room,” said Henry. “A cot may not be an actual bed, but it will be warm and dry, and we make sure that everyone gets one,” she said.

The Salvation Army offers breakfast to those who stay the night at the shelter, said Henry.

It also provides blankets and clothes to anyone who needs them, regardless of whether they stay at the shelter, said Henry.

With the drop in temperatures, the Salvation Army is in need of extra beddings and blankets, toiletry items, and especially extra socks, said Henry.

House To Home is doing its part to combat the cold weather, said Director Jess Towner. House To Home, 413 E. Eighth St. in Parkersburg, will be open during normal hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. during this cold snap.

House To Home is providing blankets, clothing and socks to anyone who needs them, said Towner.

With donations arriving at the day shelter, House To Home has been able to give additional assistance to prepare the homeless for the cold nights.

“The more we have to offer, the better off everyone is,” said Towner.