"They've been busy and our nights have been even busier," Lieutenant Jerry Williams with the Salvation Army in Monroe.
He said when the temperatures drop below 35 degrees, they open their cold weather shelter. Those doors opened Tuesday afternoon, and will stay open all Wednesday night into the morning -- until the temperature warms up again.
"The day shelters around here tend to close from about 1 to 3 p.m.," said Williams. "So, we wanted to make sure they had a warm place to go."
Fairhaven and Harmony House on Garrett Road has a shelter specifically for the mentally-ill homeless. They have eight beds and life-skills classes available to homeless individuals who just need to get a referral through the Office of Behavioral Health.
However, drop-ins are welcome through the day -- from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- for people needing a place to stay warm, said Kathryn Fendall, who oversees the programs with the Monroe Area Guidance Center. They are also located near a Monroe city bus stop.
"Get out of the weather, get out of the cold during the day," she said. "They can utilize the computers, TV. If they just want to get off the street, have a hot cup of coffee, that's available to them."
According to research done in 2011 by The Wellspring, there is over 200 people in Northeast Louisiana who are on the streets, sleeping in the backseat of a car, in a park or in the woods.
"They're out there, there's so many out there that we don't see and there's a lot of people that need help," said Fendall.
The Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana is even giving away MRE's to the homeless. It's meals-ready-to eat that doesn't need a kitchen or electricity to prepare it. The food bank keeps them on hand throughout the year for hurricane season, and for giving out to the homeless when needed.
The salvation army also has a mobile kitchen, ready to respond to hard hit areas from the weather.
"[Areas] that won't be able to provide with meals on their own, then we'll be able to provide that with our mobile kitchen," said Lt. Williams, adding that they haven't received any calls for the mobile kitchen yet.
For those that qualify, the salvation army social services program offers food, utilities, and rental assistance.
"Through this cold weather, everybody is going to have their utility bills spiking," said Lt. Williams. "We'll be able to provide a little bit of assistance for those who qualify for that program."
These organizations want the public to help direct people to the right place.
"If you see somebody out there close to a building or underneath an overhang, let them know, tell them to come to us and we'll give them a bed for the night and try to work something out for future nightly visits," said Lt. Williams.
The MAGC also works with local police to help guide the homeless off the streets and into their shelter as well.
"Bring them to us," said Fendall. "If it's during the day and it's 10 a.m. and they're on a park bench and just need somewhere to go for the day."
For more information on how you can help or donate:
- Call 318-343-9200 for the Fairhaven Shelter
- Call 318-325-1755 for the Salvation Army in Monroe
- Visit www.fbnela.org or call 318-322-3567 for the Food Bank of NELA, or click here to contact the food distributors and shelters they work with.