NEW PORT RICHEY — The Rev. Mark Hamilton, pastor of the Congregational Community Church, expects a long Thanksgiving eve after concern about overnight lows in the 30s prompted Pasco County to open two emergency shelters for the homeless at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
"We have a rotation of seven churches and tonight our church is on," said Hamilton, who plans to remain awake all night as the church welcomes homeless looking to keep warm.
The move to open shelters came Tuesday after the National Weather Service predicted an overnight low of 36 degrees, including the windchill, for four hours. Emergency management officials used that threshold in deciding to contact the United Way of Pasco County, which works with a network of church-based shelters.
Congregational Community, part of the United Church of Christ, is one of two churches in Pasco set to open Wednesday. The other is the Chancey Road Christian Church in Zephyrhills.
Hamilton said he'll place signs in the library and near stores homeless are known to frequent to get the word out. The county order is not binding, though, and Hamilton expected some homeless will be reluctant to take shelter in the church for fear their tents and other belongings will be stolen.
Those that show up will be taken to the church's fellowship hall and given a mat, pillows and blankets. Hamilton said he'll probably spring for pizza and donuts.
Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.