LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As temperatures dip below freezing, most Arkansans will be staying indoors. But for many, that’s not an option. Overnight shelters hit hard by the pandemic are preparing for more visitors as those without homes look to stay warm. Centers say they’re doing everything they can to keep visitors and staff safe.

In their 22 years of operation, the Little Rock Compassion Center has always been open. “We have never closed our doors, not one time,” said CEO Pastor William Holloway. But the homeless shelter still faces new challenges during the pandemic. With many things still shut down and weather below freezing, the shelter’s preparing for more visitors. “We take everybody’s temperature when they come in the door,” Holloway said, explaining their COVID precautions, “we ask them if they’ve been sick.” Staff have also noticed an influx of one particular group of people, who often need more help than others. “In the last couple of months, we’ve started to see more older people,” said Holloway.

Pastor Holloway says the Compassion Center is doing everything it can to keep guests safe. So far, it’s worked. “Fortunately, we’ve only had one case here,” he proudly explained. Guests must wear masks while at the center, and social distancing is enforced, even in the living areas. On warmer nights, however, some choose not to stay, fearing the virus and close contact in a crowded shelter. “They’re just like everybody else, they’re just as scared,” Holloway said. As the shelter continues to provide for the homeless, employees and volunteers have faith that this difficult time will end with the help of others. “If people work together and follow the rules, I think it lessens our chance of getting sick.”

During this busy time of year, the shelter is looking for donations, including winter coats, warm blankets, hand sanitizer and bleach. Those interested in donating goods can drop them off with a staff member at the front check-in. You can learn more about the Little Rock Compassion Center here.