Brutal temps have Downtown Rescue Mission keeping homeless warm

Huntsville
Data pix.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The cold is forcing the Tennessee Valley to layer up for another night, and that's leading many organizations to open their doors for people who don't have a warm place to sleep.

The Downtown Rescue Mission expects to see an influx of people filling its shelter. In fact, more people are expected to arrive, given the brutal temperatures they'll experience on the streets. Shelter officials say they usually see more men than women.

The shelter is opening its doors to anyone, despite their circumstances.

"When it's below 40 degrees, at the mission - we allow anybody to come and stay with us regardless if they've had trouble with us before," said media outreach director Michael Phraner.

Temperatures will drop to the low 20s, which means those finding themselves caught outdoors will need to get warm before nightfall.

"When it gets really cold like this, we see about a 15 percent increase in just the men side alone in our emergency services," said Phraner.

The Downtown Rescue Mission houses about 100 men on average. Tonight 150 men experiencing homelessness will need a bed.

"We are the only mission around that will accept people if they have mental illness or if they're drunk," said Phraner. "People might think that might be a security issue, but we have really good security here."

Phraner said homelessness affects more men than women in the area.

"One day a year we do something that's called Point-in-Time Count where all homeless service providers count the number of folks that they're serving," said community partnership and resources senior director Jennifer Geist.

The North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless reported an increase in the number of homeless people in 2019.

"It's definitely an important area we need to address as a city," said Geist.

It'll happen soon. The shelter will need more funds to help a growing homeless population find warm and permanent homes to sleep.

Wednesday night at 6, the Downtown Rescue Mission will host its second "Homelessness Forum." Huntsville police and other leaders in the community will lead a discussion on how to best serve Huntsville's homeless population.