Emergency shelter opens for 3rd night, criteria may be changed

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Freezing conditions forced Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte to open an emergency shelter for a 3rd night in a row.

It was announced around 5:30 Thursday evening that the Grady Cole Center in Uptown would open again as an emergency shelter. Many people applaud the decision, but are questioning the criteria used to open the shelter throughout the winter.

Thursday was another night of freezing temps in Charlotte. Much of Uptown was still blanketed with ice and snow.

“This is not enough to keep anyone warm,” said Charles Robinson, while holding up a single sleeping bag.

Robinson stood in his living room, surrounded by donations. Many of the items will go to local churches, who this winter, have voluntarily opened their doors to keep the homeless out of the elements.

“Protocol needs to change,” said Robinson.

The City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and emergency management have opened an emergency shelter at the Grady Cole Center three times this week.

The criteria for opening that shelter is a wind chill of 10 degrees or below for 24 hours or if shelters across the county are full.

On January 3, when temperatures at night dipped into the teens for nearly a week, the homeless used whatever they had on their backs to stay warm under a bridge just outside Uptown.

An emergency shelter was not open in Mecklenburg County, but churches again opened their doors.

“We had people who came to our location that had to be carted off by MEDIC to go to the hospital,” said Robinson.

It was a dangerous situation that Charles Robinson doesn’t want to see again. He along with dozens of other community activists are demanding a change.

“It’s really a commonsense approach. If it is cold outside, too cold for you and your family to be outside, then it is definitely too cold for another family to be outside in these conditions,” said Robinson.

The topic of criteria for opening an emergency shelter was supposed to be discussed at a county meeting Wednesday night, but ironically that meeting was canceled because of the weather.

Leaders are not supposed to discuss the criteria at another meeting on February 6.

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