GREENSBORO — A white flag fluttered outside the Interactive Resource Center early Thursday afternoon — a sign the nighttime temperature would be dangerously low and that anyone was welcome.
With the signal given, dozens of people seeking shelter from the cold filed into the center.
Under the White Flag Emergency Response Plan, the Interactive Resource Center, YWCA and Greensboro Urban Ministry are working again this winter to ensure that people living outside have places to escape the cold.
“The IRC is the hub,” explained Michelle Kennedy, the executive director. “It can be super stressful. It’s a three-way partnership. As we’ve done it, we’ve learned a little something.”
Staff members from the organizations have met monthly to prepare for nights like Thursday when the temperature was expected to be as low as 25 degrees.
As the hub, the Interactive Resource Center takes in people seeking shelter for the night. Men get taken to Greensboro Urban Ministry.
Women and families are sent to the YWCA.
Others will go to the IRC.
“We’ll talk throughout the night as the numbers change,” Kennedy said. “Our goal is that we don’t leave anyone unsheltered.”
Even people who have housing but don’t have heat are welcome to use the shelters, Kennedy added.
As the city braces for a cold snap, shelter organizers plan to be open again tonight, Saturday and probably a few days next week. People can start checking in at 4 p.m. each day. Staff and volunteers will take people to the YWCA and Urban Ministry around 7 p.m.
As dozens of people signed up for shelter on Thursday, four Greensboro police officers — arms loaded with boxes of crackers, snacks and chips — walked into the center’s lobby and dropped off their offering.
As night fell, the temperature dropped and more people came.
Aubery Parson, 46, of Greensboro usually sleeps on a mattress under a bridge.
But on Thursday night, at least, he had a roof over his head.
“It’s cold outside and I’ll probably freeze under the bridge,” he said.
Contact Joe Gamm at (336) 373-7090 and follow @joegammNR on Twitter.