“We need places like this:” Columbia’s winter shelter welcomes people experiencing homelessness on frigid nights

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Published: Jan. 29, 2022 at 12:01 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 29, 2022 at 12:14 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -The cold front passing through the Midlands this weekend is leaving many people experiencing homelessness worried about how they’re going to stay warm.

Regernold McFadden has spent quite a few nights out in the cold. He says if you’re going to be sleeping outside, you need to be prepared.

“If you had to stay out in these cold conditions, you would have to have emergency equipment,” he said. “You’d have to have sleeping bags, blankets, someplace where you can – I ain’t gonna say hide - but someplace comfortable where you can rest at for the night.”

McFadden added that one blanket simply won’t cut it.

“You’d have to have a bunch of blankets because one little blanket ain’t gonna do you no good because you’re gonna be sleeping on the concrete and concrete is colder than the temperature,” he said.

On frigid evenings like Friday night, Columbia’s emergency shelter opens its doors to people like McFadden experiencing homelessness.

The Inclement Weather Center is operated by the United Way of the Midlands, the Salvation Army, Transitions, and the City of Columbia. It is available to anyone over the age of 18 for an overnight stay whenever the temperatures drop below 40 degrees.

“We don’t discriminate, the door is always open,” Tikeia Maxwell, the Inclement Weather Center’s manager, said.

The shelter, located on Calhoun Street by Broad River, can house around 250. According to Maxwell, they served about 175 clients last weekend, and 160 on Thursday.

She said she expects those numbers to rise this weekend, though, as temperatures continue to drop.

McFadden said having a place like the winter shelter to rest his head on a cold night means a lot.

“Because we have nowhere to go and the temperatures are so cold, we need places like this where we can go in and sleep and rest and take showers and wash up and take care of ourselves,” he said.

Buses begin departures from the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (COMET) stop at the corner of Sumter and Laurel around 5:45 p.m. and run until 7 p.m. Clients must arrive via the COMET bus or transport from the Columbia Police Department.

Maxwell spoke to the power of the shelter opening its doors and its volunteers opening their hearts, providing warmth to those who need it most.

“Just being here, just being someone they can talk to, just to be that ear, just to be here,” she said. “A lot of people come just to have that support. They just want somebody that’s able to listen to them and I’m here for it.”

The shelter is open through March 31 each year. If you’re interested in volunteering at the Inclement Weather Center, you can visit United Way’s Volunteer Center.

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