UPDATE | Salvation Army shelter expected to open this weekend

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's a sigh of relief for the many who count on The Salvation Army to pick them up when they're down. The Kroc Center is certainly a good back up shelter option, but people who use the shelter say it's nothing like the Center of Hope.

Six days staying at the Kroc Center have come and gone since the fire, and Dawn Fontenot can't take many more.

"I packed for about three days," said Fontenot. "We've been here for about five days now and I'm on my last clean outfit,"

She and more than 170 others are taking shelter in the Kroc Center.

"Nobody knew where they were gonna go," said Bryant Gary, describing the moments after the fire on Friday.

It's the only place they could go after the fire on Friday. During the day, they're forced to find warmth wherever they can.

"I have a car, thank God. But a lot of times I have to work, so that helps, too," said Gary. "Sometimes I have to stand out here in the cold like the rest of them,"

Others, like Dawn, don't have that option.

"It's the winter time and we're freezing," said Fontenot. "There's not too many places for us to go,"

Shelters across Augusta say that's true. Like the Salvation Army, the Garden City Rescue Mission is at capacity. They can house 60 men at a time, but have had more than that showing up at their door. They said cold weather is to blame.

Over at the Salvation Army, when it gets really cold they do make arrangements for their clients. When its 40 degrees or colder in the morning, they don't require folks to leave. When it rains or reaches 40 or below throughout the day, they open up an additional room for the folks to get out of the bad weather.

"Its cold and there's really not much that we can do," said Fontenot.

A mile away from the Kroc Center, leaves blow in the wind at the empty Center of Hope, but the center itself is getting ready to turn over a new leaf. They said it would take 4 weeks to 4 months to repair the panel box and wiring. Now, electrical work should finish up by Friday, and then Servpro crews come in to clean.

"They're trying to get us back in order as soon as they can," said Gary.

People like Dawn and Gary will be back to something familiar this weekend.

The Salvation Army Center of Hope has gotten some help, and they expect to reopen by the weekend.

The Salvation Army reached out to Allison-Smith Company who offered help.

The organization is still asking for the community's help, including any and all monetary donations.

Monday, January 28, 2019
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – After a Friday fire at their main shelter location on Greene Street, the Salvation Army has moved about 200 people to the Kroc Center downtown.

Salvation Army leaders tell News 12 it could be a week before the Center of Hope reopens, or it could be months. Either way, leaders don't think it's a viable option to continue operating the Kroc Center as a shelter after this week.

Melody Wallace is carrying all of her belongings on her back and in her hands on her long walk to a new place to stay Monday night. On the way, she walks past the only home she's known for half the year.

The Salvation Army's Center of Hope is where she eats and stays with her boyfriend.

"I was in a house with my boyfriend, and we were living in a house with termite damage," she tells News 12 along the way. "It was a little shocking at first. It's different but you get used to it after a while."

Just as she was settling into a new normal, an electrical fire at the Center of Hope shelter is leaving her and 172 others unsure of what's next.

"I feel lost right now. A little bit," said Wallace.

Salvation Army Leaders are housing their clients at the Kroc Center campus now. The say they will have to move people to a different location after this week, but they still want to help those in need. Leaders are looking at other places downtown to house their nearly 200 homeless.

"This is a crisis situation for the Salvation Army and this community. We are going to have to address very quickly."

Beyond the crisis, Salvation Army says their advisory board is discussing a capital campaign to raise money for a new building.

"The building we are in is dated and we are experiencing the effects of that. And that's one thing our advisory board has been talking about. We need a new building and this is a great example of that."

Melody is an example of who the crisis at hand is truly impacting.

"Yeah, kind of had a bad day. Depressed, crying a little bit," said Wallace.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Salvation Army has posted a letter on their door at their Greene Street location to say they are re-routing people to the temporary shelter they have set up at the Kroc Center.

No word yet on when they’ll open back up on Greene St.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT)-- When disaster strikes, The Salvation Army is there. When people need a hot meal and a warm place to stay -- The Salvation Army is there. On Friday night, it served both functions, jumping into disaster action when their own building caught fire, and helping the people they serve.

For a lot of people, the Salvation Army Center of Hope symbolizes a turning point in their lives -- a place where they start to rebuild.

"There were sparks flying out from under the door and very loud pops continued," Captain Phillip Canning, Area Commander for the Salvation Army, described.

In a matter of seconds, the people staying at the Center of Hope felt hopeless themselves, grabbing what little they have and running.

"Everyone knew that they had to get out of there," said Canning.

Less than 24 hours after the fire, Captain Canning led News 12 through the Center of Hope to see the damage and where the fire began.

"This is where it originated," said Canning, opening the panel box in a mechanical room. A shortage in the panel box caused it to start smoking, triggering the sprinklers to pour out from the ceiling. The building has smoke and water damage.

The smoke and sprinklers forced nearly 200 men, women, and children to evacuate the shelter as they waited in the cold for further directions.

"It was a cold night last night. so we went to overflow capacity so you'll see mats on the floor," Canning described walking through the dark hallways of the Center of Hope. Mattresses lined a few corners of the room as there weren't enough beds for everyone who needed a place to stay.

After the fire struck, families huddled together for warmth with nowhere to go.

"My mind immediately went to -- okay, what do we do with them tonight?" said Canning.

The answer to that question was the Salvation Army's other facility across town -- The Kroc Center. That's where cots, blankets, and comfort kits were waiting for the 172 people who needed them. But the solution is just a temporary one, according to Salvation Army leaders.

"The Kroc Center is not going to be an ideal solution long term," said Canning. "We do need to find alternative housing for the individuals if we're going to be out for an extended period of time. We're still working on that."

Before Georgia Power turns the electric back on, electricians have to replace the panel box. But until then, they have no power and at the Center of Hope, no services...at least temporarily.

"It will impact our services going forward, we're not exactly sure how," said Canning.

And they still have no idea when the Center of Hope will be a pillar of hope again.

For now, everyone that needs a place to stay has one at the Kroc Center. The Center of Hope housed other services like rent and utility assistance. They say those will be relocated to the Kroc Center as well.

If you want to help, they're asking for financial contributions or for donations of towels, plastic wear, napkins, brown bags for lunches, laundry pods, disposable food containers, paper and plastic bags.

All donations can be made at The Salvation Army Kroc Center located at 1833 Broad Street.

The Salvation Army evacuated 172 homeless men, women and children to its Kroc Center, after a Friday night fire at the Center of Hope Shelter. With no certainty on when the shelter will re-open, Salvation Army is asking the community for help.

In an afternoon press release, center officials said they do not know when they'll be able to re-open the shelter due to no electricity, fire damage and water damage.

The center needs monetary donations, daily essentials and other goods like towels, laundry pods, disposable food containers, paper and plastic bags.

All donations can be made at The Salvation Army Kroc Center located at 1833 Broad Street.

Friday, January 25, 2019

8:06 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Ga, (WRDW/WAGT) -- According to the fire chief on scene, a panel box had a shortage causing the fire.

There was no major damage but the center is without power at the moment. Southern Company officials tell News 12, before Georgia Power can safely reconnect the service for the center, The Salvation Army will need to make repairs to the equipment.

As soon as the power is back on, the center will be fully operational.

The Red Cross and the Kroc Center are sending the residents to shelters for the night. No one is being displaced.

7:56 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Ga, (WRDW/WAGT) -- According to a representative from the Salvation Army, there was possibly a fire in the mechanical room.

The rep states that possibly more than 100 people could have been staying there tonight.

Red Cross is setting up cots for the people there at the Kroc Center.

7:29 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Ga, (WRDW/WAGT) -- According to dispatch, there has been a fire at the Salvation Army in Augusta on Greene Street.

Officials say no one is reported as injured and they are still on the scene.

They are unaware of how the fire started.

We will keep you updated as this story is still developing.