In a collaborative effort between nonprofits and local governments, warming stations are being set up across the Treasure Coast as temperatures are expected to drop below 40 degrees on Saturday. Indian River County is one area where volunteers from the American Red Cross have delivered 50 blankets and cots to the Salvation Army in Vero Beach, providing 40 beds for community members in need. Red Cross volunteer Joe Vizzi expressed gratitude for being able to help, stating that the people they assist always show appreciation.
The Salvation Army in Vero Beach will open its doors on Saturday at 6 p.m. and remain open until Sunday at 8 a.m. However, pets, with the exception of service animals, are not allowed. Space is limited and will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Salvation Army Capt. Kelvin Garcia emphasized the organization’s commitment to meeting the needs of the community. He anticipates reaching the 40-bed capacity soon after opening. Garcia also highlighted the increasing demand for food and utilities, with a 33% rise in families seeking assistance, while donations have significantly decreased due to the rising cost of living. Consequently, the Salvation Army’s pantry shelves are empty, and they rely on donations from the Treasure Coast Food Bank and other nonprofits to feed the 40 individuals seeking shelter on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Garcia emphasized that the need during the holidays is greater than ever before.
To accommodate more people, the Salvation Army will utilize their buses to transport overflow individuals to other locations, including the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Eric Flowers has initiated “Operation Frost Bite” for the first time, opening up jail space for 128 individuals if temperatures drop below 40 degrees and other shelters run out of space. Public Information Officer Joe Abollo explained that a processing checkpoint will be in place to check for any outstanding warrants before granting access to the shelter. Additionally, certain items, such as vapes, will not be allowed inside, while large possessions can be stored overnight in a separate area. The shelter will provide dinner and breakfast, as well as blankets, showers, towels, and toothpaste.
Both men and women are welcome at the shelter, but there are no accommodations for animals or special needs. The Source of Vero Beach is also offering shelter for community members at a cost of $2 per night. They have two “dignity” buses equipped with bunk beds, night lights, and phone chargers for 31 individuals. Director of Operations Jade Alexander explained that there are bathrooms available on the buses and storage space for personal belongings. In case the buses fill up, The Source also has 20 overflow beds inside their main building. The dignity buses have been open since Friday and will remain available throughout the weekend.
In addition to the shelters mentioned, there are other shelters opening up across the Treasure Coast this weekend. Indian River County will open three cold weather shelters, while Okeechobee County will have a warming center. Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County will also have a cold weather shelter available. These shelters aim to provide warmth and safety to individuals and families facing the harsh weather conditions.