If November was any indication, the upcoming winter is gearing up to be particularly foreboding for those without a roof over their heads.
That was the forecast from officials at local shelters this week, who said numbers are up through the first month of the cold-weather season this year as homeless people in the Lakelands seek refuge from the cold.
The Greenwood Pathway House opened its doors at a new homeless shelter for men in Panola Mill Village in January. The 40-bed facility moved into a freshly renovated fellowship hall on the campus of Abney Memorial Baptist Church, 208 Panola Ave.
In its first full season of operation at the new site, the cold-weather shelter is getting off to an active start. According to Cassy Funderburk, Pathway's community resource coordinator, the shelter served 19 men already this month. That's more than half the clip of last winter when, through the entire season from November to March, a total 35 men sought refuge at Pathway.
"Because of the weather, we've had a lot more nights open than years past in November," Funderburk said. "It has been a harsh winter so far, and it's looking like its going to continue to be that way."
Pathway House caters to homeless men, women and children. Men are housed in the Panola Mill Village facility, and women and children can escape the cold at Main Street United Methodist Church, 211 N. Main St. The shelters open their doors each night the temperature falls to 40 degrees or lower in Greenwood, providing those in their care dinner, showers, clothes, a warm bed and dinner before transporting them to the Greenwood Soup Kitchen the following morning. The effort is one fueled entirely by volunteers, with about nine unpaid helpers needed to run the shelter each night it's open.
Funderburk indicated the facilities opened less than 10 times last November. This year, however, she said the shelters have hosted homeless guests on average five or six nights each week. While there have yet to be any women or children seeking refuge at the Main Street shelter, the men's facility has averaged about nine guests each night it's opened. That's higher than the usual average, according to officials at Pathway.
One of the additions to the center this year is a case management professional, who will work with each of the men who stay at the Panola shelter. Center officials are also working to set up a program in the coming weeks, where residents can take a six-week woodworking course and learn how to repair furniture.
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