There will be no wind chill advisory overnight Saturday into Sunday morning for Western North Carolina, but bitterly cold temperatures are hanging around. Because of the continued cold snap, the city of Asheville has extended a ‘Code Purple’ alert through January 10th. That means homeless shelters will extend hours and allow more people to stay at them.
Outside Homeward Bound’s AHOPE Day Center on North Ann Street in Asheville the winds are howling in sub-20 degree temperatures. Inside it’s crowded but somewhat subdued. The center has been serving up to 150 people daily during this string of cold weather that rung in 2018. Kate Caton of Homeward Bound notes this is a day center, so many people are showing up from multiple homeless shelters that are just blocks away every morning at 8. “The main thing people are coming from at that point in the morning is hot coffee", she says. Staff estimate they’ve been brewing more than 20 large restaurant style pots of coffee each day this week. But the center offers more than just that. “They can check their mail here. They can make phone calls. They can take a hot shower, which means a lot during this weather. There’s also our container room, where they can store items", according to Caton.
Typically, Homeward Bound is trying to find temporary or permanent housing for its clients. But when the weather gets this cold, it’s more about just getting people through the night once the day center closes at 3 in the afternoon. During Code Purple alerts, shelters in Asheville must take in more says Caton. “The shelters are almost full as it is. So they are maxed out (now) as much as they can. It’s not a comfortable stay but it’s a warm stay", she states.
Eric, who doesn’t wish to be identified further, has been able to stay at a shelter each night this week. “It’s very crowded. There’s a lot of confusion. Most of the guys get along but, it’s just real depressing to have to be in a situation like this.” There are those that even in conditions like this may not find their way into a shelter – due to behavioral, mental health, or legal reasons. Others may not seek shelter because they have a pet they do not wish to be separated from. Kate Caton says they can help those people, but it’s more limited. “The Path Team will go out to camps in the area where we know people are staying and take them sleeping bags, hand warmers, gloves, hats, all that sort of stuff.”
She adds donations of goods have gone up this week – everything from camping gear to coats to the one item they can’t get enough of regardless of what the weather is – socks.