ALTON/EDWARDSVILLE - In “The Pursuit of Happyness,” released in 2006, actor Will Smith plays the part of a struggling salesman who takes custody of his son as he's poised to begin a life-changing professional career. Smith loses his job and becomes homeless with his young son and has to fight his way back to a successful career as a Wall Street stock broker.

In scenes depicted from an entire year of a homeless struggle in the movie, Smith’s character - Chris Gardner and Christopher Gardner Jr. - fight each day to survive. Back in 2006 and ever since, the movie has been shown as a strong reminder about homeless people throughout the country and the need to feed and find a warm or cool shelter. These thoughts especially ring true when there are days like Monday when wind chills of minus 15-20 degrees exist.

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Seventeen out of every 10,000 people in the United States were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2019 during HUD's Annual Point-In-Time Count.

Rev. Jason Harrison at a previous food giveaway during COVID-19When temperatures drop as they have in recent days to below zero, anyone who is staying outside will freeze to death without a warm place.

Rev. Jason Harrison of Deliverance Temple spearheaded a drive at 1125 East Sixth Street in Alton to have a place where people can go on these cold nights to get out of the elements.

Deliverance Temple offers a gymnasium and fellowship hall where people can stay in situations when temps fail to unbearable lows and have a warm meal.

“I am overjoyed that we have a gymnasium and fellowship hall where people can stay and sleep,” Rev. Harrison said. “We have been doing this for years. Over the past two years, the community itself has come together and assisted. We have had hundreds of volunteers here and they rotate on nights to stay here with our guests. In the past week, there were 28 people on nights through most of the winter here. I don’t want to imagine what would have happened to those people if they were left in the cold.”

Rev. Harrison reached out to a ministerial alliance partner Peter and told him they needed to do something as a group in regard to the homeless and he gladly jumped on board as did other leaders.

“It just expanded to more than an alliance but it is a community thing,” he said. “We don’t put our church name on it. It is just the love of community reaching out to others.”

In Alton during their open hours, The Salvation Army allows people without a place to stay warm to come in their lobby and have snacks and water.

Lt. Lily Reiner said she also admires what Rev. Harrison and others do to let people go in for warmth and a meal at the church on Sixth Street. During the day, she said the office is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. The Salvation Army offers the Booth House for emergency situations.

Edwardsville YMCA CEO Tom Verheyen and Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford haven’t forgotten the importance of warming centers. Whiteford always gets information out to the media about warming centers.

Verheyen said the Meyer Center YMCA Is open from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. He said they make the Meyer Center a place where people can warm themselves, either in the lobby, gymnasium or skate center.

Verheyen expressed great pride that the YMCA offers services as a warming and cooling center in times of abnormal temperatures.

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“We have done this every year since I have been here,” Verheyen said. “We are always glad when the community reaches out for a greater need and we at the YMCA can help.”

The Edwardsville Public Library has also been kind enough to offer a warming location in these types of situations. The library has been undergoing some repair work and will soon be open again, Whiteford said.

Alton Police Chief Marcos Pulido and the other officers assist people they see in the cold with no place to go during these types of difficult freezing days.

“The Alton Police Department is so helpful,” Rev. Harrison said. “They have contacted us again and again and brought people to us. This is a community effort of people who honestly care and don’t want people to freeze.”

The Village of Glen Carbon and the police department have for multiple years been a leader in cases of need for those in the intense cold or heat. Normally, there isn't a gathering place, but because of COVID-19. However, the police always make it known a phone number of (618) 288-7226 for any resident in need of assistance to speak to a dispatcher to arrange safe accommodations.

Rev. Harrison said he has been forever changed by hearing the stories of people at the church on nights like Monday night with sub-zero temps.

“To hear them tell you their story and that they didn’t know what they would do during that night or day without you, is so humbling and real. No one is paid that assists with our program. Everyone is a volunteer and does this because they have the love in their heart for people.”

Warming locations include:

Deliverance Temple, 1125 E. Sixth Street in Alton. Phone - (618) 465-0463

Meyer YMCA - 7348 Goshen Road, Edwardsville – Phone: 618-655-1460
Tues-Fri: 5 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Sat: 7 a.m – 6 p.m.
Sun: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Edwardsville Library - 112 S Kansas St., Edwardsville – Phone: 618-692-7556 (currently closed for repairs, but will open soon)
The Library is currently closed due to mechanical issue but will reopen as soon as repairs are made, please call ahead to verify open.
Tues.: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Wed.-Fri.: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sat.: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Edwardsville Public Safety Building Lobby – 333 South Main Street, Edwardsville – Phone: 618-656-2131
Open 24-7 for brief stays to warm up

Main Street United Methodist Church - 1400 Main Street, Alton – Phone: 618-462-2495
Mon.-Fri.: 8:00-4:30

Salvation Army of St. Clair County – 20 Glory Place, Belleville – Phone: 618-235-7378
Mon.-Fri.: 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

If you have a warming center that is to be published, e-mail the location address and phone number.

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