With freezing temperatures ahead this week, Statesboro’s Open Hearts Community Mission has been busy fielding calls from those in need of a warm place to stay.
The homeless shelter houses 30, but only two rooms are private for families. The rest of the beds are in an “open bay dorm,” but at least it is warm and dry.
Rev. Jim Lewis, Open Hearts director, said the mission has been busy with people seeking a place to stay. Some are truly homeless, while others are called “friends and neighbors,” people who only need temporary housing for a variety of reasons, he said.
With temperatures expected to dip below freezing for much of next week, those without homes are at risk. Open Hearts Community Mission welcomes those in need, but “since there are children housed here, we require a background check” by police, Lewis said.
A homeless person simply needs to call the shelter or stop by for a brief interview, he said.
“It isn’t a long wait,” said Delia Mobley, chairperson of the Open Hearts board of directors. “The interview doesn’t take long.”
For anyone ineligible to stay at the mission, local churches, including First Presbyterian, has offered to help by setting up funding for temporary stays at area motels, he said.
“Thank God for churches with hearts,” he said.
As of Friday, the local shelter housed 17 occupants. There are always calls for help, but with the cold weather and the New Year’s holiday, the phone has been ringing more than usual. However, many aren’t comfortable with the open bay dorm situation, Lewis said, adding that a person’s need for warmth and shelter would have to overcome the need for privacy.
The shelter helps anyone with a clear background check, and requires occupants to look for employment. A motto used often by Mobley is “This is a hand up, not a hand out.”
Friday, Lewis checked in two more residents – an 80-year-old man and a young man with a need for temporary help, he said.
For more information about Open Hearts Community Mission, located on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, call (912) 623-2528.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.