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In Midst Of Icy Weather, Charlotte Homeless Shelters Increase Beds

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Nick de la Canal for WFAE News
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Vodryck Welch, 45, kicks back with a hot beverage at the Harris YMCA's Room in the Inn Saturday night.

Temperatures dropped into the low 20s Saturday night, adding a thick crust of ice onto the slush and sleet that already fell during this weekend’s winter storm. Across the city, homeless people sought refuge from the ice and freezing temperatures at night.

Matt Daniels, director of Room in the Inn and community engagement at the Urban Ministry Center, says several churches, YMCAs, and two colleges, Davidson and Queens, were increasing the number of beds available to make sure everyone had shelter during the storm.

“Fortunately, we didn’t have to turn a single person away,” Daniels said. “We had a few places that unfortunately, for different circumstances, had to cancel. But at the same time, we also had other organizations that were able to take a step up and take in even more people than they did before.”

The Urban Ministry Center’s “Room in the Inn” program housed more than 175 homeless people in 14 different locations both Saturday and Sunday night, Daniels said. The Men’s Shelter and the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope also reached full capacity over the weekend.

At the Harris YMCA off Quail Hollow Road, Room in the Inn volunteers served about 25 homeless men a hot meal of fried chicken and green beans. One of the homeless men, Aaron Tucker, said he first went to the hospital seeking shelter from the storm, but nurses directed him to the Urban Ministry Center. “I just thank God for putting a roof over my head tonight, and a bed to sleep in,” Tucker said.

The men also had access to the YMCA’s facilities, including the pool and basketball courts, and one volunteer washed the men’s feet.

“We’re always prepared for a large number of folks that are homeless in the winter,” Daniels said, “Our outreach and engagement team is always out in the community, surveying and figuring out where people are - in camps, shelters, outdoors in the woods, out in the streets - so we try to have a good barometer, if you will, of where these people are.”

If there's a homeless person it appears the ministry missed, Daniels said, he encourages people to let him know through the website www.housingfirstcharmeck.org, which is run by UMC.