A Morganton Road church is stepping up to offer shelter to homeless residents on freezing nights.
True Vine Ministries, on Morganton Road west of Skibo Road, has offered to partner with the Salvation Army for its white flag program, which provides extra shelter on nights when temperatures dip below 32 degrees.
The partnership came about after the church looked into taking over management of the Hope Center, a homeless shelter downtown, said Toni Stewart, a church elder who has been spearheading the project with True Vine's pastor, the Rev. Ernest Jones.
Church members learned through that process that a large segment of the city's homeless population stay nearby, particularly near Cross Creek Mall, Stewart said.
"We're just too close not to open it up," she said.
The church's gymnasium, known as the J Center, has a capacity of 300 beds, according to the Fire Department, Stewart said.
The facility has showers, and True Vine will serve dinner and breakfast to those who seek shelter on white flag nights.
The church hopes homeless people based in more westward locations will be more able to seek shelter if a second location is available nearby.
"That side of town is their home, even if they're on the streets, and they don't want to leave home," Stewart said.
Many, she said, can't easily make it downtown on white flag nights. But at True Vine, she said, "they can still be home but be warm and be safe."
On white flag nights, True Vine members will take church vans to nearby areas frequented by the homeless to pick them up and bring them to the J Center, Stewart said. For those who don't want to leave their camps, they'll try to make sure they have supplies they need to ride out the cold weather.
The partnership will not begin until the Salvation Army's corporate office signs off on it, said Capt. Jason Smith of the Fayetteville branch. He said that could come in the next couple of weeks.
True Vine also is awaiting an inspection from the city to ensure compliance with shelter regulations before the shelter can open, Stewart said.
In the meantime, people can still seek shelter at the Salvation Army at 245 Alexander St.
Those seeking shelter must arrive between 5 and 7:30 p.m. and provide proof not more than two weeks old that they have no outstanding warrants.
Anyone can seek white flag shelter regardless of their status with the Salvation Army unless they are sex offenders, have previously assaulted Salvation Army staff members or residents, or have been terminated for having a weapon in the shelter.
Smith said the Salvation Army flew a white flag multiple times last week.
"It looks like we're going to have quite a few more with the temperatures dropping again," he said. ..Source.. by Paige Rentz Staff writer