DeKalb County opening three warming centersDeKalb County Fire Station No. 3 at 24 N Clarendon Avenue in Avondale Estates. Photo by Dean Hesse.
DeKalb County, GA – DeKalb County will open three warming centers for residents to use overnight on Dec. 21.
According to a press release, warming centers will be open in the following DeKalb County Fire Stations tonight, beginning at 8 p.m.:
– Fire Station 3, 24 N. Clarendon Avenue, Avondale Estates, GA 30002
– Fire Station 4, 4540 Flakes Mill Road, Ellenwood, GA 30294
– Fire Station 6, 2342 Flat Shoals Road, Atlanta, GA 30316
Anyone staying in the warming centers must follow the county’s COVID-19 protocols which include wearing a mask, social distancing and undergoing a temperature check.
During the Board of Commissioners meeting on Dec. 21, several residents thanked the county for opening the warming centers and encouraged the commissioners to do more.
“We appreciate DeKalb County finally taking action to open three warming centers across the county for unhoused residents on freezing nights,” Sara Patenaude said. “As you no doubt realize, these centers are literal lifesavers, but we can and should do better.”
She added that neighboring counties provide warming centers with a safe place to sleep, a meal and have showers available. They also connect homeless residents utilizing the centers to supportive services.
“In comparison, DeKalb County offers a folding chair in a fire station. What message does that send to the unhoused people of DeKalb County,” Patenaude said. “DeKalb County can and should do right by all of its residents. Any one of us is only two or three bad days away from experiencing homelessness ourselves. Providing a folding chair, so folks don’t freeze to death is the bare minimum. Let’s set the bar higher in our county.”
Diana Berman agreed that the warming shelters should provide a warm meal, showers and a safe place to sleep. She would also like to see the county additional warming centers.
“DeKalb is a huge county. I would like to see more warming centers opened in different parts of the county located near public transportation. I’d like these centers to at least match the standards set by counties such as Gwinnett,” she said. “Transportation to these centers is also important. The county should provide this so our unhoused neighbors can reach the centers if they can’t get there by public transportation.”
Some residents urged the county to provide housing, whether it be transitional housing or affordable housing.
“We hope the county will continue to provide what is necessary for our unhoused residents, especially during cold weather,” Paul McLennan said. “Everyone has the human right to an adequate standard of living, which includes food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services. Truly affordable housing and the wraparound services required to sustain someone in a home must become a priority for all levels of government.”
Ellen Gallow said she is deeply saddened to see fellow DeKalb County citizens sleeping outdoors, particularly on cold winter nights.
“Their very lives are at risk and we as a county must respond. To as great an extent as possible, the county should provide motel accommodations with services to help move people into permanent housing,” Gallow said. “However, when this is not available, the county should provide easily accessible warming centers throughout the county.”