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'Let these folks know they’re loved' | Volunteers provide sleeping bags, food to those in need amid cold weather in Charlotte

Homeless advocates say the goal is to have more emergency warming shelters available more often.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Round two of winter weather is here for the Carolinas, with a specific focus on freezing temperatures for the Charlotte area. Now the concern for many is how to keep our homeless neighbors safe and warm.

Charles Robinson is an advocate for those experiencing homelessness and said he's seen Mecklenburg County offer some help to the homeless but believes more can be done.

“There are buildings that are empty, there are groups that are in place that have understandings in the county and it just makes sense to allow those folks to get a building, go in and operate an emergency shelter," Robinson said.

RELATED: People experiencing homelessness in Charlotte at more risk as temperatures drop

Right now, Mecklenburg County leaders say the county is working with emergency management and its Shelter Task Force to put plans in place ahead of the freezing cold. They say existing shelters met the need from the most recent winter storm, but expanded shelter capacity can be activated if needed.

Robinson just hopes it's not too little, too late.

“We’re not talking about animals, we’re talking about human beings that are sleeping outside," Robinson said. “Let’s just do better together.”

Friday Night Ministries

Volunteers with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center spent their Friday evening walking the streets of Uptown to give out sleeping bags, hand warmers and food to those in need.

“Let these folks know they’re loved and somebody cares about them," volunteer Jamie Workman said.

He says over the past few weeks they've collected close to 200 sleeping bags and plan to distribute them daily and weekly. It's a small act of kindness that means a lot to those experiencing homelessness like Michael Watson.

“It’s rough, man. You lay somewhere so cold it just creeps through you," Watson said. “Most of the time I walk all night that’s what I do to stay warm.”

Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center is looking for more volunteers in hopes that those who are interested will reach out.

For Men:

Roof Above provides shelter for men and expanded capacity by adding mats at their shelters.  To access this shelter, men may come on-site to the Lucille Giles Men’s Shelter at 3410 Statesville Ave starting at 4:30 p.m.

Roof Above will operate its Day Services Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be limited indoor seating as well as access to restrooms. Masks will be required for entry. In addition, there will also be outdoor seating with radiated heaters in a manner that meets Mecklenburg County Public Health guidelines.

For Women & Families:

Salvation Army Center of Hope provides shelter for single women and families. During an extreme weather event, the Center expands capacity by 50 beds at its Center of Hope shelter (534 Spratt Street). 

Women and families may access this shelter by calling 211 or by going to the shelter at 534 Spratt Street between 9 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Transportation: Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) buses will transport individuals to these shelter locations free of charge from January 20 through January 23 during the day. Riders must simply identify a shelter location to the driver.

Mecklenburg County and its partners will continue to monitor the weather and community needs.

Contact Briana Harper at bharper@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

 🌩️ If you like weather, watch Brad Panovich and the WCNC Charlotte First Warn Weather Team on their YouTube channel, Weather IQ. 🎥

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