Kingsport homeless shelters brace for higher occupancy during freezing weather

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- Frigid temperatures and snow are expected to hit the Tri-Cities this week. Kingsport homeless shelters are preparing to help higher numbers of people in need of a warm place to sleep.

Shades of Grace, a United Methodist Congregation church, normally closes at 4 p.m. on weekdays. But when temperatures drop to 20 degrees or below, their doors are kept open all night. 

“It’s very common for the police officers to stop by and bring folks who are out wandering in the cold and don’t know what to do,” said Pastor Will Shewey.

Shades of Grace already plans to stay open Tuesday night. Shewey said that at one point last winter, low temperatures led to the church staying open for more than a week – housing about 40 people.

Anyone is allowed to stay the night at the church, regardless of criminal history or lack of an ID.

“You have persons who have committed certain felonies or maybe have had criminal behavior in the past,” said Shewey. “So we have trained persons on call who are here and awake at all times, prepared to deal with these kind of situations.”

At the Kingsport Salvation Army, photo IDs are required. The emergency shelter has already experienced a few ‘White Flag’ nights this fall, when temperatures drop below 35 degrees.

“We’ve gotten the cold snap a little early this year,” said Major Joseph May, Corps Officer for the Salvation Army of Kingsport. “We usually don’t have to open up for White Flag until December. But this year, even in October, we’ve already been open for a few nights.”

SEE ALSO: Kingsport non-profit leaders say more family-friendly shelters are needed

The Salvation Army’s shelter normally holds 25 people. So far this fall, they’ve seen up to 10 additional people needing shelter each White Flag night. 

“To sleep on the floor, on mats. We may not have beds for them, but we can at least get them out of the elements,” said May.

More people seeking shelter means more donations are needed. Shewey says when temperatures drop, they see a much-appreciated outpouring of community support.

“The food just comes in,” he said. “Blankets, clothing, gloves – whatever is needed to endure the cold weather, it shows up.”

To help Shades of Grace, you can call 423-765-2440.

To help the Salvation Army of Kingsport, you can call 423-246-6671.

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