More than a snowstorm for local homeless shelters

       Approximately 9.3 inches of snow covered Asheville this past week from winter storm “Jonas,” according to the National Weather Service.
Winter weather presents serious problems for Asheville’s homeless population, as well as the shelters that seek to help them.
Tilman Jackson, director of men’s rescue at Western Carolina Rescue Ministries Downtown, said that the weekend’s weather means that WCRM and nearby shelters are operating in “code purple.”
At WCRM, code purple means that the beds on site are full due to extreme weather, so cots and mats have to be set up for the overflow of people. Jackson said it also means the shelter hosts people not in their program, and therefore under no obligation to abide by the rules of the shelter.
“On those particular nights we allow people to come in that might be drunk, or high,” Jackson said. “On code purple nights we kind of waive that because nobody can sleep outside high or intoxicated in this kind of weather, so that’s why the numbers go up and it causes us to be at another level.”
Jackson said he sees the people who rely on the shelter on a daily basis help with the abundance of people on code purple nights by serving food and keeping things calm.
Jackson said things such as intoxication, mental illness, and behavior problems become a huge issue when the shelter is in code purple and many people are crowding in the building, and the city could pay more attention.
“This is something we have to deal with year round,” Jackson said. “But it’s more prevalent on code purple nights. So knowing that it’s a priority and having us high on the list for emergencies, that would be nice.”