The shelter, at 89 Hickory Flat Highway near Marietta Road, will open to anyone when temperatures dip to 38 degrees or below.
Marsha Terry, the shelter’s administrator, said volunteers must be at least 18 years old and are required to stay awake when the shelter is open.
The shelter will be open from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., but will allow those in need to stay longer in the mornings if the temperature remains below 38 degrees.
The shelter is being run by Changed2Ministries, and Terry said she is unsure as to how popular the shelter will be this year.
“We’re not exactly sure what to expect on our numbers this year,” she said, adding that some individuals may have a place to stay one night and may need the shelter the next night.
Since opening during the second week of November, Terry said the facility has had about eight to 10 people “who rotate in and out of the shelter.”
Terry said since the shelter doesn’t have a sprinkler system, they are only allowed to open during the cold-winter months.
The shelter’s need became evident last year, when the county suffered an ice storm last December and when two men froze to death in January after being out in the cold all night.
The city began working with MUST Cherokee and First Baptist Church of Woodstock to get the shelter up and running.
Church members earlier this year began renovating the building, one of three on a property owned by Terry’s family.
“It wasn’t really being used for anything and we saw an opportunity and a need,” she said.
Terry also said the ministry plans to serve Christmas dinner to those in need at the shelter from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Christmas Day.
Evidence of homelessness in Cherokee County continues to crop up.
A survey released by MUST Ministries in the summer showed that 16 participants listed their status as “unsheltered homeless,” meaning they lived in places not originally built for housing or human inhabitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings and encampments.
Sixty-eight said they were “sheltered homeless,” meaning they were living in emergency housing, homeless shelters or in hotels that were paid for by a nonprofit charity or church.
Ninety-two said they were “precariously housed,” meaning they were at an imminent risk of homelessness because of evictions or foreclosure, living in an overly occupied dwelling or people living in substandard housing, such as places that have no running water or indoor plumbing.
Also, 138 indicated they were “stably housed,” meaning they didn’t fit KSU’s definition of precariously housed.
The analysis was unable to determine the housing status of 15 respondents and their accompanying children and adults.
A total of 329 respondents and their children and accompanying adults participated in the survey.
“There is a great need and it’s just a matter of being to operate full time,” she said.
Terry said the 2,800-square-foot shelter only has about 12 recliner chairs that fold out completely.
The lack of a sprinkler system, which costs about $18,000 to install, prevents them from using cots or beds, she added.
Anyone who utilizes the shelter must abide by the ministry’s rules, which are no drinking, cursing, no weapons or no violence.
Along with volunteers, the shelter needs monetary donations and people who can provide meals to serve to those who utilize the shelter, said Randy Richardson, a board member for Changed2Ministries.
Richardson said the ministry is the process of raising funds to help pay for utilities at the shelter and would like to expand to provide basic computer classes, English Speakers of Other Language classes and utilize the property to have a place to play sports.
“We’re there to help the community,” he said.
Both Richardson and Terry said they hope the shelter will become a viable place where those who may be homeless can come for shelter out of the cold weather, but can eventually serve as a place where they will get the life skills to get back on the feet.
Mayor Gene Hobgood added the opening of the cold-weather shelter is a “gracious gesture” by the ministry.
“We still have a lot of people that find themselves outside during some extremely cold weather,” he said. “This at least gives them a place to go to get out of the cold.”