The church will provide shelter only and no meals will be served, said Bill Fugate, a SHALOM volunteer.
Elsewhere in the county, officials have suggested those who need help seek publicly available spaces such as the library, shopping centers and community centers. That includes the five branches of MidPointe Library. The Oxford Lane Public Library is also available as a warm place during operating hours.
Wind chill temperatures are expected to drop to minus-20 degrees Friday, according to the National Weather Service. On Friday, highs will be around 6 degrees, and sustained winds of up to 30 mph and gusts as high as 45 mph will make it feel like it is as cold as 23 degrees below zero, according to the NWS.
Winds are expected to continue to gradually fall on Saturday, combined with some patches of blowing snow and continuing bitter cold. However, as winds continue to fall and skies clear on Saturday night, the NWS predicted Christmas Day will bring more sun and temperatures in the teens.
SHALOM hopes to begin its eight-week winter warming center on Jan. 1, 2023, according to Fugate.
Earlier this year, the city of Middletown, once it was unsure whether SHALOM would operate this year, helped support a similar church-based, rotating warming center. But the center, scheduled to be open throughout the winter, closed after six days.
At the time, in an email to The Journal-News, Missy Knight, the city’s communications manager, wrote: “Due to unforeseen staffing circumstances, the warming center has been temporarily put on hold this week while the city and faith-based organizations evaluate the organizational measures going forward.”
Fugate is asking churches that can provide seven nights of shelter during January and February to contact SHALOM immediately. He said SHALOM also needs to provide chaperones, meals and transportation from the SHALOM offices at First United Methodist, to the host churches every evening, then return them to the church every morning.
Last winter, when SHALOM said it wouldn’t open due to health concerns related to COVID-19, the city of Middletown, at the last minute under then-City Manager Jim Palenick, funded a warming center through a grant that was supposed to operate for three months at a cost of $95,000.
But the warming center, due to contract disputes with the city, closed after 60 days.
Middletown Police Chief David Birk has estimated there about 200 unhoused people living in Middletown and about 50% are from outside the city. He said many of the homeless come to Middletown from surrounding Butler County communities.