LaGrange warming center remains open as temperatures drop

Published 9:05 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The LaGrange Troup County Homeless Coalition recently announced that its warming center, Branches of Hope, will be reopened 365 days a year to the homeless. 

The facility officially reopened on Nov. 27 operating hours starting from 5 p.m., allowing guests to stay overnight to beat the cold harsh weather.

“Historically, the coalition opened up the shelter for this operation every year when the weather would get bad, and they would take in folks when Troup County dipped below 37 degrees,” Executive Director of Branches of Hope Vann Ellison said. “We’re open 365 days a year as an emergency shelter to help address the needs of both the rural and the chronically homeless while hopefully changing some lives as we work along through this.”

The LaGrange Troup County Homeless Coalition began in 2012 when Former Police Chief Lou Dekmar founded the organization with Kay Elam, Mike Pheil and Wanda Walker.

Three years later in 2015, the coalition opened a warming center, which would eventually move locations and become the Branches of Hope facility in 2022. Before this year, the warming center only remained open for cold months of the year. 

“The question has always been what do we do the rest of the year,” Elison said. “If you’re just taking on a guy off the streets in really bad weather, and you discharge him the next morning, then you’ve kept him safe for a night – and that’s a really good thing, but we want to do more than that.”

Elison urges the community to get involved in helping the homeless through volunteering with the organization. From helping with gathering needed supplies for the facility to donating clothing and toiletries, there many ways to participate in the betterment of the community.

“There’s a lot of ways to volunteer,” Elison said. “Some people pick up items that we need, like canned goods, clothes, and shelf-stable products while other people come to help and fix dinner.”

Elison’s goal for next year is to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity to provide long-term housing for low-income residents in the county.

“One of the next big projects we’re working is a collaboration with Habitat for Humanity,” Elison said. “We’ll be building ten houses that will be longer-term housing for lower-income folks that really need help and stability in that area.”

The coalition is also open to collaborating more in the future with other willing organizations to help build members of the community. 

“If anybody has a church group, civic group, or an employer that wants to have a team-building experience, they can call (706) 883-7874 and we’d be more than happy to get them involved in helping out and meeting the needs in our community,” Elison said.