DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WMBB) — With the recent dip in temperatures, Walton County Emergency Management officials have activated their cold-weather shelter emergency plan.
This plan goes into effect when the temperature gets to 40 degrees or lower, or if the wind chill is 35 degrees or lower for four or more hours.
According to Walton County Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg, this year looks a little bit different.
“In the past, what has happened up until this year is we had a cold-weather shelter at the DeFuniak Springs Community Center,” Goldberg said. “We open it up at 5:30 in the evening once we hit those trigger points. Anybody that needs to, they can either come up to the shelter, or through law enforcement, through our planning process, we have agreements set up with law enforcement to do transport to get them to the shelter, but unfortunately this year we don’t have any volunteers.”
Because of a lack of volunteers, this year emergency management is assisting people on a more individual basis.
“We have any of the agencies that have made contact with folks who need sheltering contact The Matrix (Community Outreach Center) and then they will provide them with a hotel room for the evening,” Goldberg said. “They’ve received some funding on this so we put them up in the hotel room and if they are truly homeless then we can start some casework to get them into housing.”
And while a good chunk of those who emergency management assists in finding cold-weather refuge are homeless, that’s not always the case.
“The cold-weather shelter is not a homeless shelter,” Goldberg said. “It is for anybody who does not have any heat or adequate heat so somebody could be living at home and their heater doesn’t work so we can go ahead and put them up for the night and get them taken care of.”
Goldberg also said it’s important to take the proper precautions when temperatures get below freezing, such as checking your car for ice and driving more carefully especially in the early morning hours.
You can find more information on how to get emergency management alerts here.