Baton Rouge shelters full, emergency info confusing

Baton Rouge shelters full, emergency info confusing
A crosswalk button is frozen in downtown Baton Rouge on the night of Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. (Source: Rick Portier/WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The two cold weather shelters in the city of Baton Rouge are currently full.

And, one of the phone numbers the mayor’s office has told people to call for shelters has a voicemail message saying the office is closed.

The director St. Vincent de Paul, one of two shelters that were accepting people, says his agency is currently working to figure out a solution for housing more people. 120 people are staying there currently and they are full. However, he says they will continue working to find solutions for people who show up seeking shelter.

A manager of the Salvation Army in Baton Rouge says their shelter filled to capacity early this morning. They only accept men and currently have 75 staying there.

During an interview on WAFB-TV Monday evening, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome gave two phone numbers for people to call about shelters. One of them was 389-2100. When you call that number, you’re then asked to call 925-7500 for information about shelters. When you call that number, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, you are told to call back during “regular business hours.”

The other number she gave was 311. An operator there asked our staffer to leave and name and phone number so that someone could call back with shelter information.

A representative from the mayor’s office returned that call about two hours later, offering assistance.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office was made aware of the issues by WAFB Tuesday morning.

The mayor also said her office was coordinating efforts with the American Red Cross. A Red Cross spokeswoman says their agency was contacted by the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness Monday to “provide blankets and other resources in support of the potential opening of a warming center.”

“There was no formal request made of the Red Cross to open a traditional congregate shelter as of now,” the Red Cross spokeswoman said. “We will continue to be in contact with our local government partners across the state to assess as any new needs may arise.”

The City of Central, within East Baton Rouge Parish, announced Tuesday morning that three churches in that city are opening as cold weather warming stations. They include Cornerstone Church, Zoar Baptist Church, and Journey Church. The churches will serve as a place where people without power can get out of the cold for a few hours, a Central city official tells WAFB.

“This winter storm has been a fluid situation and our community has done well to manage it,” said Broome spokesman Mark Armstrong. “Power continues to be restored, with our outages being cut in half over night. We are sheltering people in need of emergency assistance. We ran our 311 call center overnight to field calls, and with our partners, we housed several people outside of the normal shelters. We are constantly examining ways to improve our service to our residents as this event is still ongoing. We will always work to improve our systems to protect our citizens to the fullest. People can call 311 if they need emergency shelter and have no other options. We are also grateful to have not had any fire incidents overnight, please continue practicing fire safety in the days to come.”

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