DURHAM, NC — Cold winter weather is especially risky for homeless people. According to the non-profit organization Durham Rescue Mission, around 2,000 people in the Triangle are on the streets each night.
the Durham Rescue Mission has designated Friday night a “white flag night”, which means people can come to the streets for a hot meal and a bed for the night. However, they hope it will lead to more than just a one-night stay.
“There are going to be many, many gallons of soup being prepared in the kitchen here after lunch and there are mats that are laying on the floor here,” said Ernie Mills Jr., vice president of development at Durham. Rescue Mission.
Everyone was on deck on Friday as the Durham Rescue Mission prepared to open a warm shelter again.
“At times like this, when the white flag is raised, when the weather is actually deadly, we open our doors to people who are not our customers, people who are living without shelter. We want everyone to be able to get in out of the cold, so we’re making special preparations for them as well,” Mills said.
The organization averages about 400 clients a day, offering long-term programs, but those numbers increase in severe weather.
“It puts a bit of a strain on normal routine and the normal flow of our resources,” Mills said.
Mills is up for the challenge because the shelter’s goals met him. Mills’ grandfather struggled with addiction, a condition that often leads to homelessness, which is why his father started the Durham Rescue Mission nearly 50 years ago.
Although the organization provides a safe place in severe weather, Mills says it can often lead people to other doors.
“So you come to seek refuge from the cold. You discover a program that might actually help you restore some stability to your life, then wait a minute. Is there a scholarship? can i go to college? It spins those wheels of hope and possibility. It’s endless,” Mills said.
The nonprofit organization usually makes rounds just before a severe weather event and asks people if they would like to head to the shelter for the night. If you or someone you know needs safe shelter in the Raleigh-Durham area, call 919-688-9641, ext. 5034.