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Local Nonprofits Partner to Keep Vulnerable Residents Safe this Winter
Posted Date: 12/1/2017 9:30 AM
For the third straight year, Greensboro Urban Ministry, the Interactive Resource Center (IRC), and the YWCA will partner to ensure individuals experiencing homelessness will have a warm refuge on the coldest winter nights at warming centers and seasonal shelters. The City of Greensboro’s Winter Emergency Response Plan will be in effect from today through March 31, 2018.

The plan triggers a “white flag emergency” when the forecast calls for temperatures of 25 degrees or below for at least two consecutive hours. During the 2016-2017 winter season, the City and the agencies declared white flag emergency conditions on 22 days. As many as 130 people visited area warming stations each night.

In the three year’s since the partnership formed, Greensboro has not lost any member of our community for a lack of shelter from the winter cold.

“The warming center partnership is a great example of the power of collaboration and the impact that can be made when organizations and the community come together around an issue or population,” said Lindy Garnette, CEO of the YWCA of Greensboro. “The whole truly is larger than the sum of the parts.”

Under white flag conditions, emergency warming centers with relaxed admission rules open at the YWCA and IRC. The IRC expands its operations to a 24-hour service, coordinating the emergency response efforts and serving as a welcome center.

Urban Ministry’s lobby also serves as a warming center. It’s available as overflow space year-round, including winter nights when it isn’t cold enough to qualify as a white flag emergency. Last winter, on average about a dozen people spent the night in Urban Ministry’s warming center on non-white flag emergency nights in January and December.

“Working to keep people safe on dangerously cold nights is a huge priority here at Greensboro Urban Ministry,” said Myron Wilkins, Urban Ministry’s executive director. “Getting people who live outside into safe shelter is critical. We all take this very seriously. Our agency is already open 24/7 every night of the year. We really applaud our partners who become 24-hour operations on these white flag nights. It’s absolutely necessary to keep as many people safe as possible.”

Beginning this month, Urban Ministry will also open five Weaver Extension sites, adding 71 seasonal shelter beds to the 135 year-round beds offered at Urban Ministry’s Weaver House and the YWCA Family Shelter, and the space for 16 families at Urban Ministry’s Pathways Center. FaithStep Ministries Church, Grace Community Church, New Jerusalem Cathedral at Summit House, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and West Market Street United Methodist Church have space for 12 to 20 people, available by referral.

The January 2017 Guilford County Point in Time Count found 573 people experiencing homelessness. Some 104 were unsheltered.

“This partnership is critical to ensuring that people experiencing homelessness and those without heat are safe from life-threatening conditions,” said Michelle Kennedy, executive director of the IRC.

The white flag will be flying outside the IRC at 407 E. Washington St. on days when the warming centers will be open. Individuals in need of shelter on a white flag night should visit or call the IRC, 336-332-0824.

How the Community Can Help
Residents who are interested is supporting the winter emergency efforts may contact the YWCA for volunteer opportunities.

IRC’s Donation Wish List:
  • twin-sized or larger blankets and adult cold-weather sleeping bags
  • heavy winter coats sizes M-3X
  • adult male-sized hats, gloves, socks, thermals, hand and foot warmers
  • value-sized coffee, sugar, and creamer and 8-ounce foam cups
  • individually wrapped grab-and-go snacks
  • value-sized high efficiency laundry detergent
  • backpacks, tents and tarps. 

Items can be sent directly to the IRC via its Amazon wishlist or dropped off between 8 am to 3 pm weekdays or 8 am to 12 pm weekends.

YWCA’s Donation Wish List:
  • Cup of Noodles and instant oatmeal
  • snack cakes, peanut butter crackers, chips, and granola bars
  • pop-top containers of tuna, beans and fresh fruit 
  • juice packs and water

Items can be dropped off from 9 am to 5 pm weekdays at the YWCA offices, 1807 E. Wendover Ave.