HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- As temperatures plummet dangerously lower local church congregation are springing into action to make sure everyone has a warm place to stay during the cold nights.
While other cities in North Alabama had organized warming centers set up last week during the cold weather, Huntsville did not, but that has changed.
For the volunteers and members of Grateful Life Community Church in Huntsville, Thursday was yet another opportunity to serve a small section of the community that can easily be overlooked.
Grateful Life is, for the second time this month, opened their sanctuary doors at 207 Oakwood Ave. N.W. in Huntsville for people without homes who have been barred from local shelters or have reasons not to stay in them.
Church board chairman Larry Jess says the church will be open Thursday night, Friday and Friday night, and also during the days next week if temperatures dip, as predicted, again into dangerous lows.
Jess and other church volunteers patrolled Huntsville Thursday evening in the church's van, combing the homeless camps of Huntsville to find anyone who might need a place to stay out of the dangerously cold weather. "We're picking up these beautiful people - you should come over!"
Until today Grateful Life was the only congregation in Huntsville to provide emergency shelter for people who had no where else to go. Following last week's bitter cold weather, city leaders called upon Lineise Arnold, director of the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, and others to come up with a more long-term solution to the problem. Arnold brought representatives of a dozen Huntsville congregations together to pool resources and ideas Thursday. Several in the group offered to help support Grateful Life's project with food, clothing and bedding. Representatives of HEMSI offered to send a paramedic to the church just to see if anyone needs emergency help.
Arnold said her conversations with the directors of local shelters Thursday morning lead her to believe there should be enough room for those in need between the shelters and Grateful Life's overflow space.
Operation Stand Down Huntsville has also offered to open their office if extra space is needed," Arnold said, referring to a local non-profit that helps homeless veterans.
The city's largest shelters, Downtown Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and Breaking Free Rescue Mission, have put cold weather policies in place to admit people who might otherwise be barred for reasons of intoxication or past rule violation, Arnold said.
"We definitely have some collaboration going," Arnold told our news partners at AL.com Thursday.
Groups interested in helping to meet the needs of the homeless are invited to contact Arnold atwww.NACHcares.org, or 256-551-1610, ext. 223, orDirector@NACHcares.org. The next regular meeting of NACH is Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, at 10 a.m., at the Oscar Mason Center, 149 Mason Courts off Holmes Avenue in Huntsville.