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Shelter in Blount County opens earlier than usual, helping people escape the cold

The First Baptist Maryville Church is opening its warming shelter a little earlier than usual this year, helping unsheltered people stay warm.

MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Winter temperatures arrived earlier than usual this year in East Tennessee, and many warming shelters opened earlier than they usually do. Volunteers in Blount County usually run a warming shelter during December and January, but this year they opened a little earlier to help unsheltered people stay warm.

"People ask themselves, what can I do to help? So, this is just a rudimentary stage. It's just a band-aid. It's not going to fix things," said Philip Hoffman, an organizer of a warming shelter.

He said that warming shelters should not be a permanent solution. However, he said he has organized the warming shelter in Blount County for around five years.

"We're two-plus weeks earlier than normal, so we're scrambling right now," he said. "My wife and I will be here Saturday night, and I've heard from several different people who said they're going to come help."

Over the next few days, they will work to get First Baptist Church in Maryville ready to house and feed people over weekends. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures could drop to around 25 degrees Saturday night.

"They're God's children too, and they need to be in a place that's warm and someplace they can sleep that's safe, and get something to eat," said Hoffman. "If the projected temperature is going to be 25 degrees or less, 48 hours before that day we notify the teams, notify the mayor's office, United Way, and we plan to open and start telling folks about it."

The shelter is located at First Baptist Maryville Church. People can also stay at Keenan Grimes Community Outreach, Knox Area Rescue Ministries, Smoky Mountain Area Rescue and at the Tennessee Valley Coalition if they need a warm place to sleep. 

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