The Columbus area has fallen under winter colds this week with temperatures reaching the teens some nights, leaving the homeless at risk of hypothermia and death.
However, some local groups have stepped up to help give the homeless a warm place to stay for the night.
SafeHouse Ministries is among them.
“Just about everybody here has been touched by addiction and ultimately homelessness,” said Neil Richardson, Executive Director of SafeHouse Ministries.
Richardson said SafeHouse saw 82 people come into the ministry on Tuesday night when the temperatures dipped into the teens. Another 59 people came Wednesday when the temperatures dropped into the 20s.
Richardson expects to have 50 to 60 people to come in Friday night given the forecast calling for temperatures in the 20s.
With temperatures possibly dipping to 19 degrees on Saturday night, Richardson expects to possibly have around 80 people then, too.
“Number one goal is nobody dies in Columbus, Ga.,” said Richardson.
Richardson said they started opening for the homeless during cold weather like this because of an incident years ago. Richardson said around 2012 the SafeHouse was contemplating opening on a night when the low was predicted be around 11 degrees.
Richardson said SafeHouse didn’t open because they were told it their services were not needed. That night a man was denied from a now-closed shelter due to the smell of alcohol. He died a block and half away from that shelter, Richardson said.
Richardson said SafeHouse opened the next night.
SafeHouse Ministries’ is now located on Hamilton Road in what was formerly the Rose Hill United Methodist Church and has multiple areas for homeless in need of shelter for a night.
Homeless men stay in the eating area downstairs with women and children reside in the library upstairs. The TV room and sanctuary can also be used to shelter more people should the need arise, according to Richardson.
SafeHouse Ministries currently has five campuses around Columbus.
How can people help?
Richardson said SafeHouse can use donations of coffee, creamer, sugar, canned meats, toilet paper, other canned foods, caps, gloves, and scarves.
Richardson said coffee is one of SafeHouse’s biggest needs. SafeHouse Ministries served over 1700 cups of coffee over a 24-hour period on Tuesday, according to Richardson.
SafeHouse Ministries also accepts monetary donations.