Winter weather hits homeless hard

Ice, snow, pose challenges from Midwest to Maine. Storm predicted to last through Wednesday.

BY STEPHANIE BACKUS | BALTIMORE | January 27, 2009



"We had about 594 under our roof last night"

—Nina Moseley, Wayside Christian Mission


Winter weather continued to stretch across much of the U.S. on Tuesday, spanning from Oklahoma into the Northeast. The wide band of snow and ice caused dangerous driving conditions on Monday and Tuesday for some states, while others saw significant snowfall. Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry declared a disaster throughout the state's 77 counties.

"Oklahomans know all too well that severe winter weather poses serious challenges to everything from roads and power lines to debris removal, and so it is important that we be prepared for the worst," Henry said.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe also declared a state of emergency during the storm. Beebe said he hopes to speed the response of state agencies.

Beebe also signed an emergency proclamation to assist utility companies in repairs during the storm.

As of Tuesday evening, two deaths had been blamed on the storm in Arkansas. Two people also died on Oklahoma roadways during the storm. Power outages were confirmed in both states.

An emergency shelter was opened in Checotah, Okla., to house people displaced by the icy conditions.

The storm is just beginning in the eastern part of the nation, with parts of the Northeast expecting nearly a half-foot of snow. Other areas are bracing for several inches of snow topped with ice.

While snow fell Monday night in Kentucky, a winter mix began to fall Tuesday morning, causing some to seek shelter.

"We had about 594 [homeless] under our roof last night," said Nina Moseley, chief operating officer of Wayside Christian Mission.

The Wayside Christian Mission, located in Louisville, Ky., customarily houses about 500 men, women and children each night. According to Moseley, the mission is under Operation White Flag, which goes into effect on nights in which temperatures fall below 35 degrees.

"What's unique about us in this area is that we run a Samaritan patrol. We have volunteers who take a Jeep out every night to look for the homeless and encourage them to come into our shelter. If they won't come into the shelter, we leave hot coffee and sandwiches for them," Moseley said. "If they do come into the shelter, that's when our caseworkers can work with them and find out what they need."

The mission serves three hot meals every day for any homeless person in Louisville, not just the people staying there. According to Moseley, they serve an average of 2,500 meals each day. Moseley said surveys show around 11,000 people are homeless in Louisville at some point during the year.

"There are a lot of folks, we have no doubt, that would freeze to death. We have seen that in years past," Moseley said. "All shelters in the Coalition of Homeless are in tune with the needs of the homeless.

"We've seen people try to survive in camps and families survive in their cars. We want to make the space available to those folks."


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