Community shelters see higher numbers with frigid temperatures

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Below freezing temperatures have plagued the Tennessee Valley since New Year’s Eve. Now, more people are taking refuge in community emergency shelters than in years past.

But how are these non-profits keeping up with demand?

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Places like the Community Kitchen and Salvation Army are opening their doors earlier and leaving the lights on later, making sure those without homes stay warm through this bitter winter.

Nancy Soto/Director of Case Management, Community Kitchen: “I don’t remember it being this cold,” the Community Kitchen’s Director of Case Management Nancy Soto said.

Soto helps run Chattanooga’s Community Kitchen. During freezing winter weather, the non-profit opens a nighttime emergency shelter for up to 120 men, women and families.

In the last week, they’ve been averaging 100 people per night, 50 percent more than this time last year.

“Food is something we always can use. We can always use blankets, gloves, socks, underwear. Anything helps,” Soto said.

The crazy part is, these temperatures from the last couple days aren’t even close to Chattanooga’s record low.

“Although we’re not having record breaking colds, they are bone breaking colds,” said Eric Spicer, who stays at the shelter. “I suggest anyone just try this for 15 minutes. Go stand on your front porch without any heater or extra warmth, you’ll really appreciate what you do have when you go back inside.”

Chattanooga’s Salvation Army also welcomes people inside to escape the cold.

“Days like this we open our building earlier, we stay open a little bit later,” Salvation Army Major Robert Lyle said. “We serve coffee, pastries, soup, those kinds of things.”

The charity makes their building accessible for a shelter if the Community Kitchen runs out of room.

But the Community Kitchen turns no one away, feeding, clothing and housing dozens of Chattanoogans every day.

“I’d like to thank the Community Kitchen and all their staff because especially when it’s this bitter cold, they’re saving our butts,” Lyle said.

If you’d like to make a donation or volunteer at the Community Kitchen, you can visit its location at 727 East 11th Street in Chattanooga or call (423) 756-4222.

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Angela joined the News 12 team in November of 2017 as the weekend sports anchor and reporter. Angela is a proud member of an Army family, which means she has hometowns all over the Eastern Seaboard. Most recently, she calls Peachtree City, Georgia, home, where she graduated from Trinity Christian School and spent her free time driving her purple golf cart. She then headed to Milledgeville, Georgia, to attend Georgia College and State University. A proud Bobcat, Angela graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Mass Communication and represented her December 2016 class as one of three valedictorians. Angela comes to the Scenic City from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she worked at the NBC affiliate, WMBF News. Before the big move, she worked as Georgia College's Sports Information Assistant, which let her get paid to be the Bobcats' biggest fan. It all started in Savannah, Georgia, though, where she interned for SAV's number one station, WTOC. When she's not working, you can find Angela watching the New York Giants, Rangers or basically any other game that's on. She also loves traveling, hiking and exploring new places, all with her camera in hand. If you have any story ideas, big or small, feel free to reach out to her on Facebook and Twitter, or email her at amoryan@wdef.com."