Polar vortex opens wallets, warms hearts for homeless - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Polar vortex opens wallets, warms hearts for Kentuckiana's homeless

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Some of those seeking shelter at Jefferson Street Baptist Center. Some of those seeking shelter at Jefferson Street Baptist Center.
Denise Denise
J.C. Tyson J.C. Tyson
Barb Anderson Barb Anderson
Mayor Greg Fischer Mayor Greg Fischer

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Denise redefines dressing in layers.

"I don't think you can get enough clothes on for this weather," she told WAVE 3 News at the Jefferson Street Baptist Center.

Denise spends winter days there until the center closes in the afternoon. She has to walk to reach her bed for the night inside the Salvation Army shelter at the former Male High School.

"Blocks, blocks, lots of blocks," Denise said. "I don't count' em because it freaks you out if you count em. You just kind of take off and go."

But 21 men will spend Tuesday night at JSBC. It's a temporary shelter thanks to Operation White Flag and is keeping the homeless out of the sub-zero cold.

"It really was a 'gotta do' to care for the people we care for," said J.C. Tyson, JSBC director. "We've gotten probably several hundred blankets, jackets, really anything people saying hey, I want to drop off food, anything that I can."

More food comes during lunch Tuesday. By afternoon, the greatest need is for detergent to handle all the extra loads of laundry.

The polar vortex, or flash freeze, has left Jeffersonville's Haven House in much the same position. A shelter built to hold 60 people was bunking down 88 on this night. That number included six families.

"It's amazingly orderly," said Barb Anderson, the director of Haven House. "And I think a lot of it has to do with everybody knows how cold it is out there and the residents have been on their best behavior really. We've had no episodes."

Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer praised the outpouring of donations and volunteerism in a news conference Tuesday morning.

"All (White Flag) places are quite crowded," Fischer said. "And obviously, the Good Samaritan program was in place, going out to guys in the camps who don't want to come in. Everybody is working most near capacity."

Debbie Fox, the director of Louisville Metro's emergency Management Agency, said Louisville Metro Police handled more than 200 calls for welfare checks or stranded drivers Monday. According to Fox, that about 10 times the typical number.

Louisville firefighters implemented a callback at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

"Their equipment was starting to freeze, the hydrants and they wanted really to be proactive in safety," Fox said. "They had additional folks to help take care of those issues."

Neither JSBC's Tyson nor Haven House's Anderson are surprised at the outpouring of help.

"We're coming out of a recession, and folks saw it first hand," Anderson said. "They felt it first hand, and there was the fear that it (homelessness) could happen to them."

"It would be difficult for us to be an emergency shelter day in and day out," Tyson said. "But we have had discussions and plans of what would that look like in the future."

Denise's present is better thanks to a present from a stranger, who drove up as she and other displaced persons stood under a viaduct.

"She just handed me some clothes," Denise said. "This sweater was in there, and this shirt. So I actually match. That's kind of cool."

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