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Crowds show up at Charlotte Crisis Assistance for help with heating bills

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/06/16/31/1eVezc.Em.138.jpeg|141
    Davie Hinshaw - dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com
    People waiting in line Monday morning for help with heating bills before dawn outside Crisis Assistance Ministry on Spratt Street.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/06/16/31/sCbd4.Em.138.jpeg|208
    Davie Hinshaw - dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com
    People waiting in line Monday morning for help with heating bills before dawn outside Crisis Assistance Ministry on Spratt Street.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/06/16/31/1nIL3W.Em.138.jpeg|184
    Davie Hinshaw - dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com
    People waiting in line Monday morning for help with heating bills before dawn outside Crisis Assistance Ministry on Spratt Street.

Crisis Assistance Ministry doesn’t open until 8 a.m., but low-income Charlotteans began showing up outside the agency as early as 1 a.m. Monday, in hopes of getting heat before Charlotte’s big overnight freeze.

Of the 160 who sought help, most expected to be without heat Monday night, when a temperature of 8 degrees was predicted. Crisis Assistance offers emergency help with utility and rent bills for households facing a temporary financial crisis.

Meanwhile, local homeless programs were preparing for a jump in people at their doors, including a prediction of up to 75 more at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte.

The Men’s Shelter and Center of Hope shelter for women and children both plan to allow the homeless to stay indoors Tuesday, during periods when temperatures are extreme.

A warming station for people without heat has also being established at the Hal Marshall Annex, 618 N. College St., open from 8 p.m. Monday until noon Tuesday. The American Red Cross will provide staff and Mecklenburg County will provide security, officials said.

Crisis Assistance opened its doors an hour early Monday, anticipating people would be waiting in the rain and cold for help.

Among those in line was Kenneth Fraylon, 54, a disabled Army veteran who expected to have his heat disconnected because of an overdue bill. He arrived at 5 a.m. and brought a chair.

“I spent time in South Korea as part of my service, and I know what it’s like to be in weather so cold your socks freeze to your feet,” Fraylon said. “I had to pay $400 to get my car out of the shop, and that took the money for my utility bill. I don’t look forward to being in the cold.”

Lee McDaniel and his girlfriend, Janet Robinson, said they had been at the agency since 1 a.m. Monday, having walked several miles from their home on Beatties Ford Road. They needed help with rent and feared eviction during the cold snap.

“I’ve been homeless before,” said McDaniel, 40, who is unemployed. “And there were times when it was so cold, you’d spend the whole night walking to stay warm. You knew that if you quit, your legs, hands and feet would be screaming at you.”

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