About 35 homeless men found a warm place to sleep Wednesday night at the East Sunshine Church of Christ's emergency weather shelter for men.
Marsha Burns, a member of the men's shelter ministry team, said she expects that number to increase as the cold temperatures continue through the weekend.
The Salvation Army normally opens its emergency shelter when the National Weather Service predicts the wind chill will reach 14 degrees or below. However, the Salvation Army gymnasium that houses the shelter is being set up for the Christmas toy drive, said Jeff Smith, social services director.
The East Sunshine Church of Christ, which operates its emergency shelter when the temperature is predicted to be below 32 degrees, has agreed to open in place of the Salvation Army over the next few weeks.
Jeff Smith said he expects the Salvation Army gymnasium to be cleared out and ready to serve as an emergency weather shelter again around Dec. 26.
"When you've got toys and food coming in for a thousand families, you've got to have a place to store it," Smith said, adding that families can sign up for the holiday assistance program through Friday.
The East Sunshine Church of Christ is permitted by the city to open its emergency shelter when temperatures dip below 32 degrees between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., and when the Salvation Army's shelter is not open.
Pick up is at Victory Square, 1610 N. Broadway, around 8 p.m.
Burns said men can also walk to or be dropped off at the church located at 3721 E. Sunshine St. Capacity is 75.
Deron Smith, pastor at East Sunshine Church of Christ, said men don't have to have identification or go through any kind of background check.
"Coming in sober is a requirement just because that does impact the group as a whole. It impacts the kind of peacefulness of the night," Deron Smith explained. "There have been times when people have not been sober when we pick them up. If they cause trouble, they will be dismissed. Sometimes they come in and go right to sleep and we don’t even know it."