Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Should more shelters open when it's brisk but not bone-chilling, or even daily?

PORT RICHEY — This week's blast of cold air caused a handful of churches and nonprofit groups to open their doors as cold weather shelters.

But what about when it's chilly — but not quite this cold?

County guidelines say cold weather shelters open when the temperature drops to 36 degrees and stays there for four hours. Both Tuesday and Wednesday nights easily cleared that mark.

County Commissioner Pat Mulieri wants to allow the shelters to open on more nights. She wants to increase the threshold to at least 45 degrees, maybe 50. She was volunteering outside the United Way office one night last week when the mercury dropped to about 50 degrees.

"Would you want to sleep outside in 50-degree weather?" Mulieri said. "I wouldn't keep my dogs outside in 50 degrees."

The move comes as east Pasco's only cold weather shelter, Chancey Road Christian Church in Zephyrhills, has stirred controversy by opening its doors to the homeless every night. Though any organization can operate on cold nights, the church needs a special zoning permit to run a daily shelter.

A neighborhood hearing on the church's request is scheduled for 6:30 tonight at the church, 34921 Chancey Road. County officials are allowing the daily shelter to temporarily stay open, pending a final hearing by county commissioners in March.

Jim Johnston, Pasco's emergency operations coordinator, said the 36-degree mark for cold shelters is a guideline based on recommendations from the county health department. When people are exposed to that level of cold for several hours, it poses a health and safety risk.

Both Pinellas and Hillsborough open their shelters when the temperature hits 40 degrees or below.

Many chronically homeless people tend to hunker down during warmer nights, Johnston said. If there's not a high demand, the county doesn't want to keep the shelters open.

"There isn't any magical money out there for opening cold weather shelters," Johnston said, adding that the shelters are staffed with volunteers. They also don't receive any county money to operate.

But Mulieri's idea has some appeal, especially during weeks like this when many folks are digging out their winter coats.

"Imagine what the guys in the woods are feeling like," said Eugene Ganaway, pastor of Impact Family Ministries in Port Richey, which took in 17 people Tuesday night. He said the cold weather brought more folks than he expected.

Jan Martini, the founder of Charley's Angels and Fresh Start, understands the sentiment. When the weather gets cold, she helps operate a shelter at Hope Lutheran Church in Hudson.

Unlike the Chancey Road church, she said, there is no dedicated building at Hope Lutheran for a shelter. Keeping volunteers is also a constant struggle.

"Trying to find somebody that could help fund that, especially in this economy, is a pipe dream," she said.

Martini described a frenzied preparation Tuesday in which she went to another church to pick up mattresses, headed home to load supplies into her truck and made a quick run to Winn-Dixie.

Unfortunately on Tuesday, the coldest night of the season so far, no one showed up at the church. She attributed that to an incorrect address on a Pasco Emergency Management message that listed open shelters. "It's really kind of sad," she said.

Lee Logan can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

Should more shelters open when it's brisk but not bone-chilling, or even daily? 01/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 8:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Federal study says humans harmed by dispersant used during Deepwater Horizon


    A first-of-its-kind scientific study has determined that the dispersant BP sprayed at the oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010 harmed human health.

  2. Across Tampa Bay, local commercial banks and credit unions appear healthy


    In another sign of economic vitality, Florida's home-grown banking industry demonstrated strong bench strength in the latest quarterly analysis by Bauer Financial. The vast majority of commercial banks with headquarters in Florida received five "stars" from Bauer, which is the highest ranking of health on its 0-to-5 …

    Several years ago, First Home Bank in Seminole faced regulators breathing down its neck for inaedquate controls and financial weakness. Under CEO 
Anthony N. Leo, the bank has rebounded. It received a top-rated "5" star rating from Bauer Financial in the latest quarter. Most area banks are doing better these days. [SCOTT KEELER      |     TIMES]
  3. Two linemen lose their wedding rings in Tampa Bay. So far one has been found and returned.

    Human Interest

    Two linemen who spent days restoring power in the Tampa Bay area had the same unfortunate mishap: They lost their wedding rings.

    Facebook helped Michael White find the wedding ring he lost while helping restore power in Tampa Bay.
  4. Need is now for new mental health center at Bay Pines, veterans say


    ST. PETERSBURG — Veteran Ellsworth "Tony" Williams says the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System's new mental health center will help fill an immediate need.

    The new mental health center at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System stands four stories tall and was built at a cost of $92 million. It will centralize services that before were scattered. [HOWARD ALTMAN   |   Staff]
  5. GOP health bill all but dead; McCain again deals the blow


    WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain declared his opposition Friday to the GOP's last-ditch effort to repeal and replace "Obamacare," dealing a likely death blow to the legislation and, perhaps, to the Republican Party's years of vows to kill the program.

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington in July.  McCain says he won't vote for the Republican bill repealing the Obama health care law. His statement likely deals a fatal blow to the last-gasp GOP measure in a Senate showdown expected next week. [Associated Press]