Shelters collaborate with volunteer groups to help less fortunate get out of cold

ST. LOUIS – The bitter and potentially deadly cold temperatures are a reason for concern for many of the less fortunate seeking shelter. That’s why several St. Louis area services are reaching out to answer the call and serve that need.

The Biddle House, located downtown on N. 13th Street, has just over 100 beds to accommodate people, including serving hot meals. Irene Agustin, the director of Human Services for City of St. Louis, said she was expecting the shelter to reach capacity Monday night but not overflow, thanks to assistance from several local volunteer shelters that have opened up their doors.

“We work with St. Louis Winter Outreach and now there are some new churches like Destiny Family Church, St. Peter AME, and St. Douglas that have come up and worked together to help those that are in need this winter,” Agustin said.

“Most of us are transitioning, coming here to find resources for places; we can go for apartment searching, job searching,” said Chinesa Gomillia. “This is not just a homeless hangout.”

Gomillia, an expectant mother, is no longer homeless but is waiting for her apartment to be ready and for the heat to be turned on. Until then, she said she just needed a place like the Biddle House to get away from the cold that has been gripping St. Louis for the past several days and nights.

“This place gave me somewhere to just ensure that me and my baby were going to be ok, out of the cold, and make sure we ate,” Gomillia said.

The downtown city ran shelter has played a key role in taking in people like Gomillia during the cold winter months.

But Agustin said the need during the bitter cold months goes beyond just people seeking temporary shelter.

“It begs the question after winter is over, ‘How can we continue to work together as a community to figure out what those solutions are for people that are experiencing homelessness?’” she said. “It’s, ‘How do we best connect them to housing and help them get their lives back on track?’”

Meanwhile, the community-wide effort to assist people in need is something Gomillia said she hopes continues until there is a permanent solution.

“Most people who are watching this obviously have a TV, so that means you have cable,” she said. “So you’re in a place that’s warm, so you’re able to be comfortable, but step outside of that comfort zone and say that you’re outside in this 10 or nine-degree weather, what would you want somebody to do for you?”

Agustin said there are several ways to help. You can donate to any of the area's volunteer temporary shelters, including Calvary Church, St. Peter Church AME and Destiny Family Church.

The shelter also encourages anyone looking to volunteer to offer their services to the Winter Outreach Group of St. Louis.

If you or you know someone who needs help with heating or heat bills, contact heatupstlouis.org.