Cold Weather Forcing Homeless into Shelters

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These winter-like temperatures in October are forcing record numbers of homeless folks indoors. A downtown Knoxville shelter is making emergency provisions to house the additional people, who normally sleep outdoors until late November or December.

Volunteer TV's Gary Loe is in the newsroom with the facility's plan to keep our homeless men, women, and children warm and safe.

Last night the Knox Area Rescue Ministries provided overnight housing for more people than they ever have in the month of October. The shelter expects to break that record. That's now causing concern for how Knoxville's outreach programs will serve potentially even more homeless people later in the year when the bitter cold sets in.
As many as 350 street people in search of a hot meal and a warm bed will spend the night here at this North Broadway shelter, near downtown Knoxville.

"Because it's cold outside, can't camp out anymore," Billy McDaniels said.

Billy McDaniels has been homeless since arriving in Knoxville from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 8 years ago. He'll be among the roughly 100 people over capacity here at the Knox Area Rescue Ministries.

"Last year we were running 140, 150 overnight men guests, and we're running 217-to-225 overnight men guests, so we're really pushing numbers that we really see in the dead of the winter, and it's just fall," Mychal Spence from the Knox Area Rescue Ministries said.

But with the temperature dropping below 32-degrees, shelter workers hang out the white flag, warning homeless men and women of the danger to sleeping outside in freezing weather.

"It's rough, sir, it's rough outside. I mean, your feets get cold, and if you ain't got no cover, you just, you just, you're stuck," McDaniels said.

The shelter is now receiving people who would normally camp out until later in the year. The overflow guests sleep on the dorm floor, or in the chapel pews.

"Well, we're not going to turn anyone away. We just make provision for them," Spence said

With the Rescue Ministries now running out of overflow space, workers fear what could happen once winter hits.

"That we're not sure of, we're just relying on the community and the resources of the community to help us out," Spence said.

Meantime, Billy McDaniels is thankful to have this roof over his head.

"I can't sleep out here, it's too cold. So, I got to have somewhere nice and warm to sleep," McDaniels said.

If the shelter does run out of overflow space when it becomes bitterly cold, the rescue ministries will call on the Salvation Army, Volunteer Ministries, or some other outreach for help.