New Year's Day pizza party encourages the homeless to seek shelter in freezing weather

Posted January 1, 2018 5:15 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 9:56 a.m. EDT

— The freezing temperatures that kicked off 2018 and will linger through the week are dangerous, but some people lack a safe, warm place to call home.

With temperatures in the teens last night, 475 people took shelter at the Durham Rescue Mission and the Good Samaritan Inn on Knox Street. More people are expected Monday night as the mercury plunges again, amid a wind child advisory that was issued for several counties, including Durham.

The Rescue Mission threw a New Year’s Day pizza party for anyone who wanted to get warm and watch some football on the big screen. After the festivities, mission staff will roll out hundreds of beds to give people a heated place to spend the night.

“Some of them don’t want to come in for whatever reason it is, so we try to do things to encourage them to come and get out of that cold weather because we don’t want them getting cold out there and freezing to death,” said Melvin Wrenn with the Durham Rescue Mission.

Volunteers spent the day Monday going to homeless camps and places they know people stay in an attempt to convince them to come in overnight during the dangerously cold temperatures.

Wrenn said some people just don’t want to come indoors, but others realize that temperatures in the teens can be life threatening, especially when it stays below freezing all day as well.

“Some of them just don’t have anywhere to go. They’re sleeping under bridges and out in these camps and tents, so they’re grateful to be able to get out of the cold,” Wrenn said.

The mission also offers warm meals and warm drinks to the needy and offered to take people to a nearby thrift store to help them find coats and warm, clean clothing.

Wrenn estimates it will remain crowded at the shelter for the remainder of the week, as the Triangle experiences one of the coldest seven day periods on record.