Homeless shelters in Tallahassee are taking strides to make sure its homeless population is safe and warm during the remainder of this winter season.
On Jan. 29, Tallahassee experienced what the Weather Channel called a “winter storm.” Sleet and ice covered cars, patio furniture and roads. The weather was so severe that the Florida Highway Patrol closed approximately 200 miles of Interstate 10 from the Florida-Alabama state line to Gadsden County.
According to Jacob Reiter, executive director for The Shelter on Tennessee Street, cold and rainy nights usually spike the population in the shelter.
“Well, one thing you should know is every single night the shelter is over capacity,” Reiter said. “We have collaboration with the community, which involves Jacob Chapel Church,the city, the county and all sorts of different people are involved.
“And when we predict that it’s going to be below 35 degrees, we arrange for StarMetroto pick up our overflow population. They get transported to the church, and we provide them with what we call cold night shelter.”
On average, 240 people check into The Shelter a night, and more than 2,000 different people check into The Shelter in the course of a year. According to Reiter, 200 people can sleep inside comfortably. However, that still leaves a 40-person overflow.
Brittany Chandler, a member of Jacob Chapel, said churches like Jacob Chapel are saving graces for the homeless.
“Being in Jacob Chapel, you automatically feel at home,” Chandler said. “The people are so friendly and warm. It just makes sense that my church would provide a warm place for the homeless.”
The Shelter provides heat for those in need and also has a day program that involves case management, where volunteers help people move into more permanent housing, finds jobs and anything else they might need.
Thomas Smith, who frequents The Shelter, said he is grateful for everyone who takes the necessary steps to provide shelter from the cold.
“It gets so cold here sometimes that I couldn’t imagine staying outside,” Smith said. “I don’t have enough clothes to keep me warm. I thank God for them.”
According to the Weather Channel, Tallahassee is still facing some cold nights. By the end of the month, the city is expected to experience a record low of 17 degrees.