Warming Center has been busy

Published 7:23 pm Monday, January 29, 2018

This year has been unusually cold, but locals have made a point of ensuring that those in our community who face homelessness have somewhere warm to sleep when the temperatures are dangerously low.

The Warming Center that was created by the LaGrange-Troup County Homeless Coalition has been running on the New Ventures property for about two years now — but was open at another location for two years prior to that — and is open anytime when the nighttime temperature hits 37 degrees or below.

“I don’t think the public realizes the impact that this warming center has,” said Chase Hall, the volunteer coordinator at the warming center. “It gives people not only a safe place to stay, but hope and also to see that the community really does care about them.”

According to Hall, there are dozens of homeless people in Troup County, but some of those people are served by local agencies so the warming center often serves about 15 to 24 people per night. Those over the center say that even that much would not be possible without the help of the community through donations of time, money and necessities.

“The response from the community has really been overwhelming,” said Mike Wilson, the director of industrial marketing at New Ventures. “We had people coming in without gloves, and all of a sudden before I knew it, we had 200 pairs of gloves. We certainly get repeat people in the warming center, but there are new people all the time, and they come in needing gloves or needing a coat, and the community has responded in huge numbers by helping to provide meals.”

A variety of community-based groups assist with the center, including the LaGrange Police Department, which is also a member of the LaGrange-Troup County Homeless Coalition.

“The warming center ensures that a clean warm place is available for those less fortunate than most, when temperatures drop,” LPD Chief Lou Dekmar said. “It also facilitates the interaction between social services that can provide long-term support for individuals utilizing the warming center.”

The warming center serves both those who are dealing with long-term homelessness and those who are facing homelessness for shorter periods, including those who might not fit into existing community programs.

“One of the things that our community is missing is a shelter for women with children besides Harmony House — because it isn’t always that situation — and we have used it for that to give them something that is secure and warm,” said Sherri Brown, the director of Circles of Troup County. “It has been a huge help.”

Because of those community programs, the warming center is actually seeing fewer people this year than in previous years.

“It is a little bit down (from last year), but that is because of the introduction of Action Ministries,” Wilson said.

“Action Ministries had a HUD grant to house 24 chronically homeless people. They were able to use that grant sparingly and house 27 homeless individuals, so that I think is part of the reason why we are seeing the numbers down from last year a little bit.”

Those involved with the warming center expressed their gratitude to the community for stepping up, and encouraged people to continue steeping forward while the cold weather persists.

“Lately the community has really been getting behind this movement, and we’ve been seeing a lot of new faces volunteering,” Hall said. “We do have our regulars, but we also have new people stepping up to the plate saying, ‘I love what you guys do. I love that you take care of those who are in need in our community. How can we serve?’ Then we’ll get new people, so it is really gaining momentum now.”

According to Hall, there are roughly 400 people on the email list to help out, but more volunteers are always needed, especially with the temperatures expected to remain low through February and into March.

To learn more about the LaGrange-Troup County Homeless Coalition or get involved, visit tchomeless.com. Those wishing to volunteer or donate can reach Mike Wilson at (706) 333-7973. Potential volunteers can also reach Chase Hall at chase.hall@edwardjones.com.