Local News

Shelters offer warmth to the homeless on white flag night

Posted January 4, 2016 10:29 p.m. EST

— Following snow flurries on Monday night, white flags flying outside local shelters served as a welcome sign to homeless people looking for a warm and safe place to sleep.

Monday was one of the first cold nights the Triangle has seen in months, but plenty of homeless people were already taking advantage of the offer of shelter.

The white flags flying outside Wake County shelters indicated that the people inside were willing to go above and beyond normal capacity to accommodate those who needed a place to stay.

“Typically, across the board, 32 degrees and below indicates white flag and so that’s something that the county and different nonprofits have established as an agreement,” said Salvation Army employee Lizzy Adams.

The white flag system is implemented when temperatures are predicted to be 32 degrees or below between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. or when there is heavy or steady precipitation with temperatures forecasted to be 38 degrees or below between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The Salvation Army on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh where Adams works was one of five shelters with a flag over its front doors Monday night. Average capacity at the shelter is 93 beds for women and children.

“We go beyond that typical capacity, so if we fill up all of our beds that means we go to ulterior modes and so that’s cots, that’s mattresses, whatever we can,” said Adams of white flag nights.

Wake County officials said that on white flag nights, their shelters simply will not turn people away. That’s important in a county where more than 1,000 people, including many children, are homeless every single night.

“I think a lot of times people have a very specific image in their head of what someone experiencing homelessness looks like. They don’t always realize that person is eight years old and wears a size six shoe and is in first or second grade,” said Adams.

Adams said that shelters many need blankets and pillows to handle cold nights, but Lysol and other cleaning items that will keep germs from spreading during cold and flu season are also necessary.