ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Several Tampa Bay counties were placed under freeze watches and warnings heading into the holiday weekend. While the cold weather sends Floridians running for warmth, those who can’t access it are in a tricky spot.
“Misery,” said Ed Miller. “Absolute misery. Doesn’t do me any good.”
The recent cold weather, taking it out on those who need the most help.
“So when we’re going down into the 40s, it’s clear almost into the 30s by the time they open the shelter,” Miller explained. “It gets down to 45, 42 degrees — it’s rather chilly.”
But on Saturday night, Miller had a blanket and a mat at the Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg.
“Oh, that’s heaven,” Miller said. “That’s what I’m talking about. That’s seriousness right there.”
The church recently became a cold weather shelter in time for the Christmas freeze, and opened its doors last night as well.
“There are some very basic creature comforts that I love and I would love everyone to have access to,” said Sabine Von Aulock. “Shelter, warmth, clean water, a job, equity. Very simple things.”
Von Aulock is coordinating the church’s efforts to house people.
“Keeping someone warm, housing someone for a night,” Von Aulock said. “That could keep them alive.”
The church can take up to 15 people in its shelter.
“It could be us, could be one of our family,” Von Aulock said. “So we’re there to make life a little bit better.”
On Saturday, they prioritized people who slept at the church on Friday, the previous night. After that, it was first come, first serve. They filled all 15 slots on Friday.
“One particular person that we know from every Friday [said], ‘You know, we’re not bad,'” Von Aulock recalled. “Essentially, we’re not that different from you.”
Just like Miller.
“[My bags] get heavy,” Miller said. “But to relax and enjoy a satisfied belly does a tremendous amount for you.”
After a good night’s sleep and a hot dinner, the shelter guests are fed breakfast Sunday morning and sent off.