New Macon homeless shelter expands quickly after cold deaths

MACON, Ga. (AP) — A middle Georgia homeless shelter is housing 70 to 80 people a night only two weeks after it opened.

Macon community groups funded the shelter, which opened in a former elementary school, after two men with nowhere else to stay froze to death on Christmas, The Telegraph of Macon reported.

The Brookdale Warming Center opened a third hallway in the old school building Tuesday, increasing capacity from 120 to 180.

Director Steve Bell said he wanted to make sure the shelter had plenty of space before an expected drop in temperatures next week.

“This facility has worked out just perfectly because there’s such security in the building that you can’t get through the front door if we don’t buzz you in. Then you can’t get to the foyer. There’s always a deputy here,” Bell said.

Guest Susan DuPont said she found the center after being admitted to a local mental health facility.

“I’ve been in a few shelters and this is probably the Taj Mahal, compared to some of them,” she said. “I personally think it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever come across as far as helping people with nowhere to go.”

The center was initially funded by a $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Central Georgia and United Way of Central Georgia with The Salvation Army providing three meals a day to the guests, Bell said.

“We’re very lucky that the community has shown such great support,” he said. “We’re very, very lucky to have so many agencies and nonprofits that we worked with on this.”

Because of the community support of the center, Bell said they don’t really need material donations, such as clothes and bedding. The center does need monetary donations and volunteers to keep running effectively, he said.

The shelter is now trying to provide services in addition to food and a place to stay.

“We have case managers here that will help these individuals with other certain needs and that’s where we partner with the other agencies," Bell said.