Sunday, December 5, marked the first day of Hillsborough County opening its cold weather shelters welcoming dozens of residents, both homeless and those who live in homes without adequate heat.
According to county spokesperson Willie Puz, last year, cold weather shelters opened 31 days, thanks to temperatures dipping into 32 or below degrees, including wind chill.
Such sites have assisted more than 6,000 individuals, during the winter months, providing them with evening meals, a place to sleep out of the cold as well as breakfast, all purchased from Metropolitan Ministries.
The county’s first weather shelter opened in the winter of 1989-90 and Hillsborough County was also one of the first counties in the state to open as a recommendation by the local homeless coalition to formalize ongoing efforts, Puz said.
Cold weather shelters are now located in Wimauma, Brandon, as well as two locations in Tampa. Residents who want to take advantage of the shelters can check in at 4 p.m. and must leave by 7 a.m.
Joseph, a Brandon resident, who did not want to give his last name, has been taking advantage of the shelter since last winter and spoke highly of the support by the county and all the volunteers that give of their time and effort on behalf of the homeless or those without heat.
“I am very thankful for the shelter,” he said. “Its not only a place for us to stay and keep warm, but everyone is friendly and is willing to help. I really appreciate all the support.”
While Hillsborough County coordinates with various organizations to help provides to the shelters, it operates thanks to the volunteers and the support of the local community.
Area residents are also able to offer support by donating shelter supplies, such as disinfectant wipes, disposable cups, coffee, creamer, paper plates, plastic utensils, and sugar.
While meals for the shelters are provided through Metropolitan Ministries, those wishing to donate non-perishable items can contact Metropolitan Ministries at 209-1000.
Puz said that the hands that mend the shelters vary per each site, including the Salvation Army and Metropolitan Ministries, which provide a rotational staff base from their specific organizations and could, have multiple employees per night.
“The Salvation Army site is an expansion to their daily efforts and they use their own staff,” Puz said, but added that anyone interested in helping could be added to the volunteer list.
Bethune and Brandon sites are staffed by a few County personnel, while Brandon also receives volunteers, from local churches and organizations Puz said.
Meals cost under $3 each, while staffing costs are absorbed by the organization responsible for managing the shelter as is the maintenance and clean up, which are all handled by the staff at each individual site.
The county shelters include; Bethune Park Rural Shelter (South County) 5809 Edina St. in Wimauma. This shelter opens at 6 p.m. and is for adults and families and can be contacted by phone at 671-7618.
The Brandon Community Center, located at 510 E. Sadie St. in Brandon opens at 5:30 p.m. and is for homeless individuals and families with children in the Brandon area and can be contacted by phone at 635-8179.
The Metropolitan Ministries shelter for families is located at 2010 N. Florida Ave. in Tampa and is open from 4:00 p.m. After hours phone: 209-1077.
The Salvation Army shelter is located at 1514 N. Florida Ave. in Tampa. This shelter opens at 4 p.m. and is only for adults. After hours phone: 221-4440
Most shelters will close the next day around 7 a.m. Those wishing to donate supplies should contact each individual shelter.
For more information about area sites or to support them, please call each cold weather shelter at the phone numbers listed above.

Previous articleCounty To Host Public Meeting To Discuss Improvements At Valrico Rd. And Front St.
Next articleNew Light At Lynx Paw Trail For Lithia Springs School Safety