Over the weekend, dozens of homeless people escaped freezing weather by staying at the cold night shelter at One Hopeful Place, while others embraced indoor warmth provided by the shelter at the Crestview Area Shelter for the Homeless.
With only one month of winter in the books, those scenarios likely will often be repeated as temperatures continue to plummet after the sun goes down.
One Hopeful Place (OHP), at 1564 Percy L. Coleman Road in Fort Walton Beach, serves the south part of Okaloosa County while the Crestview Area Shelter for the Homeless (CASH), at 120 Duggan Ave. in Crestview, serves the north.
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During inclement winter weather, defined as 40 degrees or below, both nonprofit facilities provide temporary shelter for people who need it.
The cold night shelter at OHP operates from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. and the one at CASH operates from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.
At One Hopeful Place, 40 people stayed there Friday night, 35 stayed there Saturday night and 37 took refuge there Sunday night, shelter Manager Donna Morgan said.
“Some of them came and ate or took a hot shower and left,” Morgan said.
On cold nights, cots are set up in the dining areas of OHP’s men’s and women’s shelters for men and women escaping the outdoors. Those temporary guests join the 50 men who live in the men’s shelter and the 11 women who live in the women’s shelter.
Morgan said work hopefully will be completed soon on OHP’s permanent, stand-alone cold night shelter, which will be in a building behind the men’s shelter. Electrical work and the installation of insulation must be completed before the new facility opens, she said.
Making sure that homeless people are OK “is what we’re about,” Morgan said when asked what keeps her, her staff and volunteers going.
“There are bumps, but we just have to work through them," Morgan said. "We try to make it the best we can.”
Eleven clients live full-time at the Crestview Area Shelter for the Homeless. On Friday night, five people stayed in CASH’s cold night shelter, 11 were there Saturday night and 10 stayed there Sunday night, CASH President Ann Sprague said.
“It’s still not a great big number of people,” Sprague said.
Cots are set up in CASH’s dining room on the designated cold nights. Sprague said she learned that many of those who decide to stay elsewhere have been “bundled up inside their tents with sleeping bags and layers of blankets. They’re making it.”
Helping homeless people “is our way of serving God,” she said. “We don’t want to see other people suffer. We just want to try to provide a safe place where they won’t freeze to death. For the most part, the people are appreciative and grateful for the help that they receive.”
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Florida cold weather: Shelters help homeless escape temps in Okaloosa