Homeless shelter capacity being expanded for hurricane

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Posted September 27, 2022 | Staff report

Major Phillip Irish said early Tuesday that the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter at the Center of Hope near downtown Ocala has already been activated and the capacity is being expanded in anticipation of Hurricane Ian.

“We’re the first one open. We’re ahead of the curve,” Irish said. “We’re the first to open and the last to close, generally.”

The shelter has 42 beds in the men’s dorm, 19 in the women’s dorm and three rooms for short-term occupancy for families with children. Irish said they are currently getting out floor mats and extra bedding to be placed throughout the center, which will increase the capacity by about 60 to 80 people.

“We’re pulling out all the stops, using every inch of space we have,” Irish said.

He said staffers are focused on “mission critical” operations at the Center of Hope and also at the organization’s Evangeline Booth Garden Apartments complex for low-income senior citizens.

Irish also said the organization’s emergency disaster unit is stocked and ready.

“It’s basically a big food truck. It is prepared and ready to go, with 500 meals on board and sitting in our driveway. We will deploy it locally or in other places, but we will always take care of home first,” Irish said.

“Our teams are ready; our supplies are ready. We are on standby,” he added.

Irish said the best way people can help the organization’s mission is by making monetary donations.

“That is the most flexible and allows us to get what we need,” he said.

In the event Salvation Army’s shelter becomes full, Interfaith Emergency Services will manage another shelter in partnership with the county according to Karla Grimsley – Greenway, Chief Executive Officer for Interfaith Emergency Services.

“We will spend a lot of time encouraging people to go to shelter. It’s always a struggle to get some of them to go,” lamented Grimsley.

To make a donation by phone with a credit card, call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or give online at https://give.salvationarmyflorida.org/give/179306/#!/donation/checkout