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City Offers Emergency Shelter For Hundreds Escaping Cold

Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, WBHM 90.3 FM

Hundreds of Birmingham's homeless citizens seek refuge in city's emergency warming center.

Brutal cold prompted the City of Birmingham to open an emergency warming shelter over the weekend. City officials say they’ll keep it open through Friday, but they need more volunteers and supplies.

Hundreds of Birmingham’s homeless found food and warm refuge inside the South Exhibition Hall at the BJCC. They spent the night in the makeshift shelter Monday and many stayed throughout the day Tuesday.

Don Lupo, director of the Mayor’s Office of Citizens Assistance, says about 200 people checked in during the weekend nights. Monday night, when the temperature dropped even lower, the number of people almost doubled.

Lupo says it’s part of a bigger problem.

“We only have three emergency shelters – the Salvation Army, First Light and the Firehouse Shelter, and none of them have enough beds,” he says.          

Volunteers help staff the warming center and area restaurants provide food. But there are other needs, he says.

“We need grilled cheese sandwiches, soup. We need chili, personal-hygiene-type items, Chapstick. They go through Chapstick like crazy,” he says.

The warming station will be at the BJCC through Wednesday morning. It will close at 9 a.m. and reopen at 5 p.m. at the Boutwell Auditorium. Lupo says donations can be delivered to the warming station at the BJCC and at the Boutwell.