Cold temperatures in metro Atlanta dangerous for homeless residents


With below-freezing temperatures expected in metro Atlanta through the end of the week, those who sleep on the streets are at particular risk from the cold air.

Local governments are opening warming shelters and partnering with outside organizations to help ensure people have shelter for the duration of the chilly weather.

“I’m grabbing people off the street I know are homeless,” said George Chidi, the social impact director for Central Atlanta Progress. “You can’t sleep outside tonight, or you will die.”

Channel 2 Action News meteorologists predict lows in the teens and low 20s throughout the week. David Nadler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said with expected wind, it could feel close to 0 degrees, or even lower.

High temperatures won’t reach the 40s until Sunday, according to Channel 2 forecasts.

Atlanta has opened warming shelters with the capacity for a combined 300 people at the Adamsville and Central Park recreation centers, and is housing 75 people in the Jefferson Place shelter. The city has also partnered with a number of emergency shelters, each of which is offering overflow capacity, said Jenna Garland, an Atlanta spokesperson. The Atlanta Police Department, downtown ambassadors and others are communicating with homeless residents about what shelters may be available for them.

In Fulton County, seniors who usually come to the county’s senior centers will receive emergency meals if they feel it is too cold to leave their houses. More than 500 meals have been packaged, said Ladisa Onyiliogwu, head of strategy and process improvement with Fulton’s department of senior services. Onyiliogwo said staffers surveyed seniors over the long weekend to ensure that they would not need additional shelter options.

If there is anyone in Fulton that does need shelter, county spokesman Darryl Carver said they would be referred to outside homeless providers. That’s also the case in Cobb County, where MUST Ministries is providing a cold weather shelter at 55 Elizabeth Church Road in Marietta, and a warming center next door during the day. In Douglas County, the First United Methodist Church of Douglasville will open a warming center at 6167 Prestley Mill Rd.

Additionally, the Salvation Army is opening a shelter at 469 Marietta Street this week, and every night through March when the temperature will go below 40 degrees.

For information about those shelters, or if you know someone who needs shelter, call Red Shield Services at 404-486-2700 or 404-486-2701.

Clayton County has no plans to open any shelters, and chief operating officer Detrick Stanford said emergency services would handle any needs in the county. In Gwinnett County, no shelters will be opened said a county spokeswoman. And a DeKalb County spokesman did not respond to requests for comment about that county’s plans.

When the homeless population was counted in January 2017, there were 3,500 homeless people in Atlanta and about 15,000 in the metro region, Chidi said. Outside the city, he said, there are far fewer resources available for people who are without shelter.

“I’m far more worried about the homeless folks who are not downtown,” he said.

Chidi said residents who have lost some paychecks and are on the street are coming in. But there are about 850 chronically homeless people in Atlanta, he said — those who are afraid of shelters, or are “hardcore survivors who figure they’ll survive this, too.”

“That’s how people die,” he said. “They get over-confident.”

Chidi said the closure of the Peachtree-Pine shelter would not have a negative impact on the region’s shelter capacity for homeless individuals.

The Atlanta warming center at Adamsville is located at 3404 Delmar Lane SW in Atlanta, while the Central Park recreation center is at 400 Merritts Ave. in Atlanta.

Staff writers Meris Lutz, Leon Stafford and Tyler Estep contributed to this story.

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