WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Aldon Reel has been living on the streets of downtown Wilmington since July.
“It’s the hardest battle I’ve ever had, worse than losing my mother and godmother," said Reel.
The battle got tougher as frigid arctic air moved into the region Sunday.
“It’s horrible. I’m anemic, so it makes it worse in the cold," Reel explained. "Trying to stay warm in these conditions, I just can’t describe it. There are not enough words to articulate that.”
Thankfully, there is a place in Wilmington for Reel and others who are living on the streets to go when they are in need of a warm meal and a blanket to deal with overnight wind chills in the teens.
“We have to help out our friends that don’t have a warm bed," said Dusty Casteen with Switchin' Gears Ministry. "This makes me feel blessed that I have the means and can do this for others in my community.”
Casteen and Randy Evans with Walking Tall Wilmington decided Sunday night to open what they call an emergency shelter to help those more vulnerable battle the elements.
“Anyone is welcome," Casteen said. "We don’t turn anyone away.”
On Monday, about two dozen people were inside the shelter located at the intersection of 15th and Market streets. Some enjoyed a hot cup of coffee. Others munched on a snack. Some sat and listened to a man play guitar.
A room full of people were out of the cold, connected by circumstance.
“I am happy that I have a warm place to lay my head and food to fill my belly," said Destiny Lawhorn. "They are like family to me.”
Lawhorn, who’s been living on the streets for about a year, said she would likely be sleeping under a park bench if it wasn’t for the emergency warming station.
“It’s difficult, but you have to bundle up, get in your sleeping bag and pray you make it through the night,” said Lawhorn.
Casteen says the shelter will be open again Monday night and likely through the day Tuesday. Anyone under the influence or battling an addiction is welcome to come to the shelter.
“Every time we do this, there is an outpouring of support that comes from the community," Casteen said. "They come running with stuff so we never have to worry if we will have food or snacks. They come out in droves.”
That support is appreciated by folks like Reel in these unfavorable conditions.
“This is just a blessing. It’s comfortable," Reel said. “There are bathrooms that you don’t have to walk blocks to find. No one can imagine or grasp this if you haven’t been there. If you have never had humility, or were humbled before, you’ll never learn it.”
The warming station at 15th and Market is taking donations for the next cold snap. Here are some of the items that are accepted:
- Snack foods (chips, snack bars, apples, bananas, beef jerky, crackers)
- Beverages (bottle water, sodas, juice packs)
Give Randy Evans a call at 919-349-1993 for pickup, or drop-off.