GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — As temperatures drop across Middle Tennessee, a Gallatin woman is working to make sure people in need have a warm and safe place to stay.
Deborah Alston is an associate minister at the First Baptist Church on East Winchester Street. Five years ago she started the "Stay Warm Shelter" in the church gym. It is open every Friday night in January and February.
"This is just our part of doing what we can for the community," said Alston.
Volunteers help set up beds, and prepare warm meals. Alston drives around the city and picks up people who need a place to stay and brings them to the church. She also provides food and blankets for people who don't want to come to the shelter.
Alston estimates there are 125 homeless people in Gallatin, and as many as 75 can be at the shelter at one time.
"We also have some people who have lost apartments and jobs due to COVID," said Alston. "I have whole families sleeping in cars."
The facility has numerous COVID-19 safety precautions in place. Every person who enters the gym has their temperature checked, and masks are required. Beds are also spaced six feet apart.
Since there is no permanent homeless shelter in Gallatin, Alston says the church is a critical resource. She said she has encouraged city and county officials to open a full-time facility for 15 years, but nothing has worked out. She is still hopeful something will come together.
"This year has changed because we have volunteers from all over that are coming and looking at how we do it," said Alston. "Hopefully, they will be able open on a night for themselves."
Alston also works throughout the year to help people pay their utility bills or find hotel rooms if they need one.
For more information about the Stay Warm Shelter, including how to make a donation, visit Stay Warm Shelter of Gallatin on Facebook or contact First Baptist Church on Winchester Street at (615) 452-8189 or the Stay Warm Shelter at (615) 479-7784.