Fayette County

With temperatures diving, Lexington shelter to stay open at least through Thursday

Otis R. Webb Sr. picked a coat Monday from a collection of donated clothing at a shelter at the Community Action Council's West End Center. The council doesn't usually run a shelter, but an official said it will remain open at least through Thursday morning.
Otis R. Webb Sr. picked a coat Monday from a collection of donated clothing at a shelter at the Community Action Council's West End Center. The council doesn't usually run a shelter, but an official said it will remain open at least through Thursday morning. Herald-Leader

Outside, the temperature was falling rapidly Monday morning, but Otis R. Webb Sr., 68, said he was warm and toasty inside the shelter at Lexington's West End Community Center.

"This is a God-sent place," Webb said. "There's an abundance of love here. You can feel it."

The Community Action Council opened the shelter Friday night to absorb some of the overflow from other shelters around town. The council had planned to close it Monday morning, but with temperatures expected to drop below zero Monday and Tuesday nights, officials decided to keep it open at least through Thursday morning.

"We want to serve the needs of the community," said Charlie Lanter, program development manager for the Community Action Council.

Lanter said the shelter at the West End Community Center had been taking in about 30 people a night since it opened. He expected the shelter to be full again Monday night.

In addition to giving folks a warm place to sleep, the center has been providing needy people with donated food and clothing.

The center's kitchen whipped up a hot meal for guests Friday night using donated food, Lanter said.

Over the weekend, he said, staff members at the center even signed up several people for health-insurance coverage through Kentucky's state-run health exchange, Kynect.

Staffers said Monday that there still was a need for warm clothing, such as sweaters, gloves and long underwear.

"This really is a new venture for us; we don't typically operate a shelter," Lanter said. "But we had the space and the resources, and there was a real need for another shelter to take some of the pressure off the other facilities in town."

People of all ages have been using the center, he said.

Webb, an ordained minister who served in Vietnam with the Marines, said he'd been at the shelter since Friday night and planned to stay as long as it was open.

"They have really reached out to people in need," he said. "Everybody gets along; there is no animosity here. People have sent in all kinds of food, and it just keeps coming."

Timothy Lee, who is from Louisville, said he'd been staying at the Hope Center until moving to the West End Center shelter Friday night.

"It gives you some peace of mind to know that you'll have a warm place to stay for the next few days," he said. "To see the way people have been sending in clothes and food, it really makes you feel good.

"We really appreciate the community and all they've done."

As Lee spoke, several men sat nearby watching a movie. Other people sat a table drinking coffee.

Across the room, David Robbins was pulling on some cold-weather gear, preparing to head downtown to meet his wife, Tori, and infant son, Lucas, who had spent Sunday night at the Salvation Army Shelter for Women and Children. Robbins said he and his wife are expecting a daughter.

He said his family moved to Lexington from Iowa last summer, after hearing jobs were available here.

"That hasn't exactly turned out to be the case," he said.

Robbins said coping with the weather has been a lesser problem, he said.

"This is mild compared to an Iowa winter," he said.

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