Warming shelters open

Posted at 3:24 PM, Jan 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-23 23:36:27-05

Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties are opening cold weather shelters, for those homeless and those without adequate heat.  The National Weather services expects local temperatures to dip near freezing across the area Saturday night.

The Salvation Army in Tampa opened its doors at 4 p.m. Saturday and within 15 minutes every bed here was full.  But county operated warming stations at places like the Jackson Springs Rec Center in Town 'N Country still had room to welcome in overnight guests, like Mike Ramirez.    

"Would you be sleeping outside if it weren't for these people?" ABC Action News asked.

" the cold," Ramirez said.

Ramirez has been homeless since losing his job seven years ago.  He finds comfort knowing there are still people who care..

"I'm very grateful all the time that these people donate to help the homeless," said Ramirez.

Charlie Dittmar is one of the many volunteers from Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, giving his time to help.

"There's nothing like getting a little perspective in your life.  It really is and that's one of the things--you really learn to appreciate what you have so much more and you try and find other ways to give," Dittmar said.

He says over the years, volunteering has been a small sacrifice, and he's come away with so much more from getting to know those who have nothing.

"Getting to know their stories has been so enriching to my life.  It's been a really wonderful experience for me.  I get more out of it than i give," said Dittmar.

Kenny Gambuti couldn't agree more.

"You know, we're blessed.  So we figured we'd bless other people," said Gambuti.

He and volunteers from Penninsular Christian Church go out across Tampa every month, helping the homeless.  On Saturday's cold night, they were out giving away warm clothing, food, and hot cocoa.

"It definitely means a lot to our whole church, not just me.  Just to see somebody be able to eat and have something warm.  Look, we're all blessed.  Man, if others did this for everybody, it'd be a little bit better out here I think," Gambuti said.

And all those volunteers hope that by giving a glimpse into what they do, it might inspire others to get involved.
Even if you're tight on time, you can always donate clothing and other items like toiletries to shelters to help those in need.


Hillsborough County is coordinating with the following organizations to provide cold weather shelters Saturday:

Bethune Recreation Center, 5809 Edina St. in WimaumaOpens at 6 p.m. for adults.
(813) 672-7881
Brandon Community Center, 510 E. Sadie St. in BrandonOpens at 6 p.m. for adults.
(813) 635-8179
Jackson Springs Recreation Center, 8620 Jackson Springs Road in Town ‘N CountryOpens at 6 p.m. for adults.
(813) 554-5004
Metropolitan Ministries, 2106 N. Florida Ave. in TampaThis location is where families go for motel vouchers before 5 p.m. 
After hours: (813) 209-1077
Salvation Army, 1514 N. Florida Ave. in TampaOpens at 4 p.m. for adults.
After hours: (813) 221-4440

In Pinellas County, the following shelters are available beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday & Sunday.:

Adult Men and Women

Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church
110 S. Ft. Harrison Avenue
Clearwater, FL  33756
Church Phone: 446-3001
Capacity:  75
(Note: This shelter opens at 5:00 PM)

Pinellas Park

Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast in Pinellas Park
7790 61st Street North
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
Phone: 574-5437
Capacity: 150

NOTE: Transportation to and from this shelter and downtown St Petersburg will
be provided by Boley, Inc. Scheduled pick-ups from Williams Park and St.
Vincent de Paul begin between 5:00-5:30 PM.

St. Petersburg

Northwest Presbyterian Church
6330 54th Ave. North
St. Petersburg, FL  33706
Church Phone: 544-4551   
Capacity: 75

Salvation Army
1400 4th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL  33701   
Phone: 822-4954        
Capacity: 25

The Turning Point
1810 5th Ave. North
St Petersburg, FL 33713
Phones: 823-7811
Capacity: 25

Families will be placed in family shelters on cold nights.  Families should call 2-1-1 to make these arrangements.