Metro Atlanta governments, others shelter homeless during cold weather

Six people have died of hypothermia since Dec. 1, the social impact director for Central Atlanta Progress said Tuesday, as he urged those without residences to seek shelter in the coming days.

Channel 2 Action News meteorologists were predicting a mix of rain and snow Tuesday evening, then high temperatures in the 20s, with low temperatures in the teens through Thursday. Low temperatures will stay below freezing through Saturday.

“Anyone who wants to get warm, there is space for them,” said George Chidi, with Central Atlanta Progress. “We can accommodate every single person. The problem is not space, it is will.”

Central Atlanta Progress has started a partnership with Lyft and Common Courtesy to get homeless people rides to shelters. To use the service — it is available only in downtown Atlanta — call 404-215-9600 to reach a downtown ambassador.

This is the second time this month temperatures have dipped below freezing for an extended period of time, and local groups have tried to bring people in from the cold.

A Facebook post, shared more than 8,000 times, claimed a 2-year-old died in the cold snap earlier this month. But an investigator in the Fulton County medical examiner’s office said no children died as a result of being exposed to the elements.

Area officials were working hard to keep people alive through the freeze. The city of Atlanta opened warming shelters at the Old Adamsville and Central Park recreation centers and is dispatching teams to identify those sleeping outside and offer them transportation to a shelter.

Old Adamsville is at 3404 Delmar Lane NW in Atlanta. Central Park is at 400 Merrits Avenue NE in Atlanta.

In Fulton County, those without homes will be connected to shelter through Gateway Center. They can go there — it’s located at 275 Pryor St. SW in Atlanta — or call 404-215-6600.

DeKalb County planned to open three fire stations as overnight warming centers. Fire Station 3 at 100 N. Clarendon Avenue in Avondale, Fire Station 6 at 2342 Flat Shoals Road in Atlanta and Fire Station 21 at 1090 Crown Point Parkway in Atlanta are available for anyone who needs to escape the frigid temperatures, particularly the homeless.

The county also encourages people who need shelter during the day to visit any library branch, recreation center or senior center.

In Cobb County, MUST Ministries opened a cold weather shelter for women and children at 55 Elizabeth Church Road in Marietta. A warming center next door operates during the day.

A 2015 report from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs found that, outside of the city of Atlanta, Gwinnett had the largest homeless population of any metro Atlanta community.

Though the county historically had not opened warming centers, that changed Tuesday afternoon, when officials announced Norcross’ Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church would open its doors for those in need. Officials stressed, however, that the warming center was “not a Red Cross shelter but a temporary refuge from extreme cold for those who may need to drop in for warming.”

No sleeping accommodations or food will be provided, officials said.

An employee at the Gwinnett Coalition of Health and Human Services, which helps coordinate the efforts of local nonprofit groups and other organizations, recommended those in need reach out to local cooperative ministries, food banks or the Salvation Army to try to find help.

Jeff Turner, chairman of the Clayton County Commission, said the south metro county has an agreement with the Clayton Board of Education to use school gymnasiums and recreation centers as warming centers should the need arise. Clayton also has forged partnerships with different churches to help in the event that residents require shelter. So far, the county has not had to exercise those agreements this season.

“As far as I know, right now there are no plans to open up warming centers,” Turner said Tuesday of the latest round of severe weather expected to impact the metro area. “However, we are monitoring the weather. We care about those who are homeless and don’t want anyone to face issues that are life threatening.”

Staff writers Tyler Estep, Leon Stafford, Tia Mitchell, Meris Lutz and Stephen Deere contributed to this story.


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