CRESTVIEW — Florida’s endless summer will soon be replaced by uncharacteristically cold nights that could send beach-seeking tourists to the hills.
But for the homeless — who can’t simply leave the state on a dime — there are cold weather shelters in place for when the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
"I firmly believe we have kept people from dying and when the weather is below 40 it is very dangerous. I know I wouldn’t want to be out on the streets," said Ann Sprague, president of the Crestview Area Shelter for the Homeless, which organizes cold weather shelters every year.
Judy Christopher, who volunteers at Woodlawn Baptist Church’s cold weather shelter, says that not only do cold weather shelters help keep down death rates of the area’s homeless, but they also decrease the rate of burglaries and arrests on cold nights.
"If we didn’t have them, we would have dead people on the streets, we would have more buildings broken into because they have no place to go," Christopher said.
Christopher added that when the weather is too cold for the homeless to remain on the streets, they will often break into defunct buildings and stay the night.
She said that a number of years ago on Highway 90 West, at the red light by the Burger King in Crestview, homeless people in the area used to break into a much-maligned store that once sold items for adult entertainment.
"When it closed down, these guys figured out how to break in the back door and make it look like it wasn’t broken into and it was the summertime and, man, they had the electric running and they had AC and everything," Christopher said.
"Then what do they do? They go to jail and they eat up our tax dollars," she said.
"It’s a vicious circle."
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Woodlawn Baptist Church has a homeless shelter. The revision also corrects a misquote in the second to last paragraph.