As mercury drops, Salvation Army offers shelter

With overnight lows expected to reach single digits, the local Salvation Army Shelter has opened its doors and will keep them open as long as the cold weather sticks around.

“We’re open 24-7 and will be through the cold snap,” Capt. David Leonard said Monday. “Our cook is cooking meals and people can come in and get a meal or something hot to drink and we can house them overnight if need be.”

Leonard said the shelter, located at 501 E. 12th Ave., has room for 18 males and a half-dozen women and has a family room that could be used if necessary to house additional women.

“If we get more than that, we can open up the gym and house between 150 and 175 people,” Leonard said.

He said he knows some of the shelter’s clients are homeless and tries to check on them whenever possible.

“There are a couple of people that I haven’t seen and I’m kind of concerned about them,” Leonard said. “If we can do anything for people out there who are in need, we’re going to do it.”

According to the National Weather Service, the overnight low for Pine Bluff on Monday night was expected to be 10 degrees, and the high on Tuesday was expected to reach the freezing mark at 32 degrees. Tuesday night’s low was predicted to be 21 degrees, and according to the weather service, the temperatures were not expected to rise about freezing until at least Wednesday, when a chance of rain moves in.

Bob Purvis, director of the Pine Bluff Convention Center, said at present, there are no plans to use the center to house people who might be out in the cold.

“Right now, the Salvation Army is it,” Purvis said. “There’s a very carefully thought out plan of what to do in these kind of situations that starts with the Salvation Army and if there are large numbers of people, the Red Cross gets involved.

“For example, if there are about 50 people, they might decide to open up one church as a shelter, and if there are about 100 people, them maybe two churches,” he said. “If there are really a lot of people that need shelter, then they would open up a shelter here.”