Warming shelter opening Saturday in Beaufort County

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - Beaufort County is not wasting any time when it comes to preparing for the cold. In fact, it's already announced the activation of its emergency shelter.

The shelter at Sea Island Presbyterian Church on Lady's Island is activated when temperatures drop below freezing or 32 degrees. It's just a nice warm place where people can come to get out of the cold.

More than two dozen volunteers will help out this weekend, getting people signed in, serving meals and just making sure everyone is comfortable.

The pastor says there are about 1,000 homeless people in Beaufort County and during times of extreme weather, there isn't a place for them to go. In previous years they've only had about six people come and use the shelter.

That's why the church wants to stress its opening this weekend.

It is the only cold weather shelter in the county and that's one reason why the church pushed for this partnership with the American Red Cross.

"There is a homeless population here in Beaufort County. There not as visible as they might be in an area that's more concentrated. But we have a lot of homeless people here and a lot of people who don't have access to safe heating. A few years ago I think someone died from exposure to the cold so we don't want that to ever happen again if we can help it," said Sea Island Presbyterian Church Pastor Jack Miller.

Officials have plans in place just in case things take a turn for the worst. The town of Bluffton is on standby watching to see how things play out. The police department says they'll have patrols out monitoring the roads for icy conditions. If they identify any roads that are dangerous to drive on, they'll work with the Public Works Department to put out sand and salt.

"Bigger concern is some of the leaning trees, left over from the hurricane. If the water the freezes on top of these trees, it can cause them to maybe collapse and fall into the roadway, in which case we are prepared to handle that as well," said Lt. Joe Babkiewicz, Emergency Management, Bluffton.

The cold weather shelter will open Saturday running from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m., Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

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