Switchin’ Gears setting up emergency shelter to keep the homeless warm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — As the temperature continues to drop across the Cape Fear, the more dangerous it is for people living on the streets. That is why Wilmington non-profit Switchin’ Gears and The Anchor church are teaming up to make sure those folks have somewhere safe and warm this weekend.

Although Switchin’ Gears helps those in need year round by providing bikes to the less fortunate, and establishing relationships, they are now pedaling their focus to an emergency shelter.

“When the weather gets in the 20s we try to open up what’s called an emergency wet shelter,” Switchin’ Gears Director, Dusty Casteen said. “So we don’t turn anyone away for any reason, whether they’re drunk or high or whatever we take anybody in because plenty of people actually in this area have frozen to death by living outdoors not having a place to go.”

For a few days, Casteen is turning his workshop full of bikes into a place for those in need to eat, sleep, and stay warm.

“I think a lot of times our society takes for granted things like heat and a roof over your head, or a warm blanket. And so, we try not to do that. We try to, we try to sacrifice our time when we can,” Casteen said.

This time last year Tommy Johnson was among those living on the streets. Now, he is a mechanic for Switchin’ Gears. Johnson said being able to help set up the shelter this year is a wonderful feeling.

“We understand how it is out there. I do. I’ve been there, and I know how uncomfortable it can be,” Johnson said. “And sometimes it seems kind of desperate, but that’s what we’re hoping to do is to eliminate that so you know that people can feel safe and feel comfortable.”

But they need your help to make this emergency shelter possible.

“If you know somebody who is living outdoors you can, you know, tell them about what we’re doing. Another way you can help is we’re trying to get the money together to buy cots,” Casteen said.

Casteen said meal or sleeping bag donations would also be greatly appreciated. He plans to open the shelter at 1201 Chestnut Street in Wilmington Sunday, December 31.

If you’re interested in donating, click here.

Categories: Community, Local, New Hanover, News

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