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?
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.