INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — With temperatures expected to drop below 40 degrees Saturday, nonprofits and local governments are teaming up to provide warming stations across the Treasure Coast.
In Indian River County, volunteers from the American Red Cross dropped off 50 blankets and cots to the Salvation Army in Vero Beach, which will provide 40 beds for community members.
"The people, they appreciate what you do for them," Red Cross volunteer Joe Vizzi said. "I'll never go to hell because everyone always tells me 'God Bless You.'"
The Salvation Army opens on Saturday at 6 p.m. through Sunday at 8 a.m. Pets, with the exception of service animals, are not allowed. Space is limited to a first come first serve basis.
Cold front is here, and it'll get even colder
"We try to enact our facilitors and our staff to meet the need," Salvation Army Capt. Kelvin Garcia said.
Garcia said he's expecting to easily meet the 40 limit soon after doors open to the community Saturday.
Garcia said the number of families seeking help with food and utilities has increased by 33% this year, while the number of families being able to donate has severely dropped off amid the rising cost of living.
So much so that the nonprofit's pantry shelves are left empty due to so many families requesting food, forcing the Salvation Army to rely on donations from the Treasure Coast Food Bank and other nonprofits to feed the 40 people seeking shelter Saturday night and Sunday morning.
"The need during the holidays is greater than ever before, so the cold weather shelter, we're preparing ourselves for that too," Garcia said.
While the Salvation Army has a 40-person capacity, Garcia said if more people than that show up, volunteers will use the nonprofit's buses to take people to overflow locations, including the Indian River County Sheriff's Office.
For the first time, Sheriff Eric Flowers has launched "Operation Frost Bite," which includes opening up jail space to 128 people.
Public Information Officer Joe Abollo said the shelter space will only be enacted if temperatures drop below 40 degrees Saturday and if other shelters run out of space.
If that happens, Abollo said doors will open from 6-8 p.m. Saturday. Everyone seeking shelter will have to go through a processing checkpoint to look for any outstanding warrants.
Vapes and other types of material will not be allowed inside, while large possessions can be stored at the jail overnight in a separate area.
Dinner and breakfast will be served. Blankets, showers, towels and toothpaste will also be provided.
Abollo said both men and women are welcome. The jail does not have accommodations for animals or special needs.
The Source of Vero Beach is also providing shelter to community members for $2 per night.
The nonprofit has two "dignity" buses, which provide bunk beds, night lights and phone chargers for 31 people.
"There's bathrooms available for anyone who needs to use the restroom and storage underneath for their belongings," Director of Operations Jade Alexander said.
Alexander said The Source also has 20 overflow beds inside the main building if they fill up both buses.
Dignity buses opened on Friday and will stay open throughout the weekend.
Below is a full list of shelters available along the Treasure Coast this weekend:
Region Indian River County
Indian River County to open 3 cold weather shelters
Region Okeechobee County
Warming center to open in Okeechobee County
Region St Lucie County