Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dozens seeking shelter from the cold at Boutwell up to an hour before the doors open

Published: Sunday, December 12, 2010, 5:55 PM ??? Updated: Sunday, December 12, 2010, 5:59 PM

Dozens of people arrived early today seeking refuge at the city of Birmingham's severe winter weather shelter at Boutwell Auditorium, an hour before the doors were set to open.

Nearly 50 people are already inside, said Don Lupo, director of the Mayor's Office of Citizens Assistance.

"It's just cold out there," he said, "We open the doors when they get here."

The facility will remain open through Tuesday night as temperatures continue to dip below freezing. Tonight's low is expected to dip to 20 degrees and 15 degrees Monday night, according to the National Weather Service. Snow flurries have been present throughout the day today.

Several social service organizations have signed on to help the crowd at Boutwell including tonight as members of Bethel Baptist Church, Pratt City serve dinner.

Lupo said the highest number of people at the shelter so far topped 125 and he expects more to flock to the center as severe winter weather bears down hard. The group is diverse, from the chronically homeless to families forced to turn seek help after financial ruin.

"There have been people whose homes have been foreclosed on, people who just can't pay their power bill: whatever the circumstances are," he said. "They're here for all sorts of reasons."

The shelter will be accessible from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. each night

Lupo said another disturbing change from previous years is the rising number of women at the temporary shelter. There was just one last year, but an average of 11 so far have arrived this winter, he said.

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