Destin cold night shelter moves to South Walton

Savannah Vasquez
The Walton County Coastal Branch Library is hosting a cold night shelter when the temperature drops below 40 degrees this winter.

Last year was the inaugural cold night shelter in Destin with the Destin United Methodist Church leading the way by opening it’s doors. Non-profit organization Others of Destin and a collaboration of churches called The Church of Destin coordinated to nights to serve meals and man overnight shifts. However, this year those doors have been closed and as the winter nights turn colder, the options are looking slim for those without shelter in Destin.

“Right now the cold night shelter is in South Walton at the library,” said DMUC Church Administrator Bud Weaver. “It’s pretty chilly. Our involvement this year is providing transportation.”

Cynthia Wilson who is on the board for Others of Destin said this year the group is taking a supportive role in the cold night shelter effort.

“We are providing support such as stocking the paper products for the year, providing food when needed, providing volunteers and getting the needs of the shelter known in the community,” she said. “Others is investigating possible transportation options so that we can provide transportation to and from the shelter for those experiencing homelessness in the city of Destin.”

Wilson added that although both DMUC and Others of Destin hoped to host the cold night shelter this year, the building resource was lacking.

“The reason we are not able to do the cold night shelter at DMUC this year is that we are renovating the building that we were in last year,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t want to, we just can’t while we are undergoing renovation. We tried to find another church in town that would have the facilities and space so that we could continue that in Destin and we worked on it for months but couldn’t find a church with available space.”

Over at the Walton County Coastal Branch Library, Librarian Linda Thompson told The Log the space is set up to host 25 people if the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

“There are beds that have been organized through the American Red Cross with cots, pillows and blankets,” she said. “It’s managed by a group of volunteers called the Vortex of Volunteers.”

The South Walton cold night shelter has been opened a few nights already this year, and by the looks of the upcoming weather forecasts may open once again this weekend.

“We follow the regulations for the Walton County emergency standards,” said Thompson referring to the 40 degree or below chill index. “It’s all depending on the weather too if it’s windy or rainy, we take all that into account as well.”

Crystee Williams who helps coordinate the South Walton cold night shelter support group, Vortex of Volunteers, said help is always welcomed at the shelter.

“We have a call list affiliated with churches in Destin and South Walton and what we are looking for now is other churches to step forward and commit to staff other nights,” she said. "We will open Thursday night if the temps are lower than 40 degrees. We will open then and stay open through Monday morning."

Director of Walton County Emergency Management Jeffrey M. Goldberg said that so far Walton county has not seen anyone transported from Destin to the cold night shelter.

The Walton County Coastal Branch Library is located at 437 Greenway Trail in Santa Rosa Beach. For more information call 267-2809.