Chattanooga Community Kitchen opens for homeless as temperatures plunge
When temperatures take a dip, finding a place to stay can be difficult for those who need it the most; but, many people escaped the freezing temperatures Friday night at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, which opened its doors about an hour early.
When temperatures take a dip, finding a place to stay can be difficult for those who need it the most, but many people escaped the freezing temperatures Friday night at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, which opened its doors about an hour early.
As snow fell and the bone chilling wind blew at least 50 people waited outside the Community Kitchen's doors; some with bags, suitcases, and even pets. As they walked inside, they immediately embraced the warmth before checking in.
It's a bittersweet experience for Shelter Manager, Wayne Hammel, who has managed the shelter for the past seven years.
"Partly it's the sadness that they have to have it, but part of me is glad that we can offer it and some of these folks I really like; I have a relationship with them," said Hammel.
Between 600 - 700 people face homelessness each night in Chattanooga. Hammel says he was almost one of them.
"I almost drank myself out of a home. If it hadn't been for my family, I would have been out in the street and Houston Texas not knowing what to do."
It's why Hammel says he loves what he does, especially on cold nights when his help is needed most.
"The whole goal is to get people out of the cold; to make sure that these folks some of them who can't build two tents and can't do all of those things to weatherize don't have to be out in the cold; to save lives and that's an important thing."
It's a temporary place to stay, but it's one Hammel says makes a difference.
"Lots of these guys don't have a families anymore and lots of these guys they just have this place," said Hammel.
Last year, the cold weather warming shelter served more than 600 people and provided nearly 180-thousand meals. However, Hammel believes the shelter will beat those numbers this year. This is Hammel's last year managing the shelter.
The Community Kitchen can hold 150 people, but there's a possibility the shelter will come close to capacity over the weekend. Because of that the Salvation Army is on standby to help alleviate the crowd.
The Salvation Army will open its doors for overnight emergency shelter for the homeless this weekend, and into next week shelter will open each evening at 6:00 pm. The day shelter will also open Saturday since temperatures will be below freezing during the day.