The Salvation Army of Cleveland County provides emergency shelter for up to 35 homeless men, women and families on a daily basis. When the weather drops to 36 degrees or lower, shelter director Lisa Chamberlain and her staff clear tables and fit 15 extra cots for individuals who come in off of the street.
“Most shelters wait until it drops to 32, but when you’re sleeping in the open, those few degrees don’t matter much,” she said, adding they’re averaging 10-12 additional individuals using their emergency cots during cold weather. “We haven’t turned anyone away.”
A recent expansion increased shelter capacity from 28 to 35: 16 beds for men, 12 for women and two family rooms that can house four people. Chamberlain said the new space has come in handy — a family of nine was split between both family rooms last weekend before they were able to secure housing.
“With seven children, that’s not easy to make work,” she said. “But when you’ve been doing this for as long as we have, you have to be a problem solver.”
The shelter provides breakfast and dinner for as many as 70 individuals every day. Chamberlain said the Salvation Army needs hats, gloves, jackets, socks, underwear and blankets.
“If individuals don’t want to come inside, even when it’s freezing outside, we try to make sure they leave with at least a blanket,” she said.
Chamberlain said that with the expanded space and additional staff, she hopes to begin an outreach program to ensure the Salvation Army is serving as many people as possible.
“There’s a stigma about homeless people, but if you come and work closely with them, that stigma goes away,” she said. “This is a community challenge, and, as a community, we can do something about it.”
The shelter is frequently in need of hygiene items — deodorant, shampoo, soap — as well as perishable breakfast ingredients like milk, butter and eggs. Chamberlain said she is hoping to replace some of the cots the shelter uses for cold nights. Individuals interested in donating or finding out more about volunteering can call her at 405-364-9910 ext. 103.