An overnight warming shelter will be available from Thursday, Feb. 11, through the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 16., at the First United Methodist Church’s Family Life Center in Hot Springs, 1100 Central Avenue.
The warming shelter will be open nightly from 6 p.m. until 9 a.m., with extended daytime hours in the case of inclement weather.
Volunteers are needed to supervise and assist in the warming shelter operations. They will work in three-hour shifts, scheduled from 6 p.m. through 6 a.m. To register to volunteer, visit www.stlukeshs.org and scroll down on the homepage to the section about the warming shelter.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, organizers are asking the community for monetary donations in lieu of food, clothing and other items. A link to donate is also located on the St. Luke’s website. On the donation form, choose “Warming Shelter” in the “To” field. Checks can be mailed to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church: 228 Spring Street, Hot Springs, AR 71901. Write “Warming Shelter” in the memo field.
The National Weather Service has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for much of the state, including Garland County, which runs through Sunday, Feb. 14. It states that a strong cold front that moved into Arkansas on Feb. 9 will be followed by a period of unseasonably and eventually hazardous cold weather, with morning wind chill values by Friday, Feb. 12, dipping as low as single digits. Dangerously cold temperatures and wind chill values are expected to persist through Saturday and Sunday mornings.
“We have already experienced one homeless death due to freezing temperatures,” said Sally Carder, outreach coordinator with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. “It's on us all to do everything in our power to make sure that doesn't happen again. It is imperative that we establish a permanent shelter as soon as possible. Then we can get serious about providing the necessary services to get people off the street and back into a productive lifestyle.”
Participating organizations for the warming shelter include the First United Methodist Church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Cooperative Christian Ministries & Clinic, the City of Hot Springs, Lakeview Assembly of God – Full Circle Missions, Encounter Church, Hot Springs Catering, the American Red Cross, The Warehouse and Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Hot Springs.
Strict pandemic protocols will be followed at the warming shelter, and an event plan is being submitted to the Arkansas Department of Health by the City of Hot Springs. Security services will be provided by the Hot Springs Police Department.
Beyond this immediate need for a warming shelter, organizers plan to continue to advocate for more services in the Hot Springs community for the homeless. The data has not been compiled from the 2021 Point in Time Count for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but according to the 2020 data for the area, there were 219 homeless individuals, with 93 under the age of 24. These numbers are only a snapshot of who is homeless on one given night and do not take into consideration those who have stayed in motels paid for by non-profits or faith-based organizations, nor do they account for those staying with friends or who are “couch surfing” between various homes. Additionally, Garland County schools reported 386 homeless youth in 2020.
“For a city the size of Hot Springs not to have a homeless shelter is unthinkable,” said Kim Carter, executive director for Cooperative Christian Ministries & Clinic.