Volunteer Phillip has had his hands full this month, literally. He washes and folds all the blankets and towels at Miracle Hill in Greenville. The mounting pile he’s working on is just from the cold weather shelter.
"January last year we were open 11 days and had a total of 600 guests,” said Director of Miracle Hill’s Rescue Mission, David Hanna. “Whereas this year we've been open 10 days so far and have already had 809 guests, so a big increase, about a 35 percent increase."
Right now, things look empty. Only about 60 bed pads have been used the last few days, but earlier this month that number was doubled for several days in a row. With snow coming our way, Hanna said he's expecting the gym to be full once again.
Temperatures have been dipping so low, each person has been getting two blankets. That means the humming of the washing machine never stops, and those extra loads and the extra guests come at a price.
"People are taking showers, using bathrooms, so there's going to be a big increase in the water bill,” Hanna said. “We also are going through a lot more detergent, toilet rolls, paper supplies and paper towels.”
The director said their supplies being stretched thin is better than the alternative, but it does have an impact on their operating budget and those effects can be felt everywhere.
"We have some little bags made up that have socks, gloves, hats and that sort of thing," said Director of the Asheville Buncombe County Christian Ministries Veterans Restoration Quarters, Tim McElyea.
The extra intake this month means even those are getting harder to put together, but the Asheville organization said they have to push through the budget deficits to bring people in off the streets.
McElyea said there are always those who try to brave the cold by using makeshift camps, like the one recently found under a busy overpass.
"You can see they've been staying there for sure, there's a jacket and some food,” McElyea said. “I just hope they are making the smart decision and coming into a shelter when it gets too cold to bear.”
Emergency cold weather shelters said they want anyone and everyone to take advantage of their services so there aren't any cold-related deaths, but they desperately need donations right now. That includes both monetary and supplies like canned food, jackets, gloves and toilet paper. Many accept donations online, or you can drop off supplies right at their front door.
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