SPRINGFIELD, Va. — Fairfax County’s Hypothermia Prevention Program aims to provide shelter for those in need. But this month, cold temperatures and the pandemic are putting pressure on the program.
The Hypothermia Prevention Program helps about 1,000 people find overnight shelter in the winter.
To do that, officials turn to local faith groups for help.
With temperatures dropping, and COVID-19 cases rising, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Springfield refused to close its doors to those in need of shelter.
"This has been a very different, difficult week," said Richard Sellers, Director of Outreach at St. Christopher's.
The church partners with Fairfax County’s Hypothermia Prevention Program, providing homeless adults with a place to sleep, and hot meals.
"Some of them don’t want to be in a shelter," said Sellers, "They’ve got a place outside a tent, or maybe a mattress at a friends house or something, and during the cold, they come because they know they're going to get a meal, a warm hand and warm place to sleep."
Until last week, the church was averaging fewer than 20 guests a night, during milder temperatures.
But then the snow arrived, just as COVID-19 cases rose and the church went to online services. Volunteers hiked to the church over impassable roads.
Later in the week, Fairfax County sent 16 more in need of shelter by bus.
Everyone is pitching in to keep the community healthy.
"We've had even our guests to come in to spend the night cleaning the restrooms and such because our cleaning service couldn’t get there it's just been an amazing week," said Sellers.
The county has six emergency shelters available to take in anyone who needs it.
If you see someone outside at risk for hypothermia, you can call the county’s non-emergency line at (703) 691-2131 to request a wellness check.