Officials urge homeless to take shelter after cold weather-relat - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Officials urge homeless to take shelter after cold weather-related death

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

The freezing weather has claimed at least one life in the Chattahoochee Valley after 51-year-old Paul Garner died of hypothermia last night, Jan. 6, according to Coroner Buddy Bryan.  

Now, city officials are working to make sure everyone has shelter from the cold.

Garner was found dead in a vacant lot just steps away from a homeless shelter on 15th St. in Columbus, Ga. Bryan confirms Garner is the first cold weather-related death to occur since temperatures dropped into the low teens over night.

A graduate of Baker High School in 1980, Garner grew up in Oakland Park. After a life of substance abuse and a few misfortunes, according to others who knew him, Garner ended up on the streets.

Toni Wolfe went to school with Garner, and was brought to tears talking about him.

"He was a very smart person, very humorous, really intelligent," recalls Wolfe. "It shocks me to find out that he was in these kind of circumstances."

Officials believe Garner was homeless for more than 20 years.

Several shelters in the area are now creating extra space for homeless people, preparing for another freezing night.

Home for Good is a Columbus organization geared towards finding homes for the homeless. Christi Beavis, the head of Home for Good, says, "Homeless Resource Network served approximately 227 chronically homeless last year, and that does indicate someone who is unsheltered or outside."

Beavis says the city has several shelters for the homeless to take advantage of.

"Some of those resources include Valley Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, House of Mercy, Trinity House, and Damascus Way," says Beavis.

City officials are urging anyone in need of shelter to take it.

"Agencies are here, they want to help, they're not going to turn anyone away, and they want to make sure everyone stays warm and safe," says Beavis.

The city is also offering a warming station tonight, Jan. 7, called the SafeHouse at 1007 7th Ave. in Columbus.

Wolfe says Garner's classmates are looking into raising money to give him a proper burial. A donation account has been established at CB&T called the Paul Garner General Fund. Donations can be made at any CB&T branch or Synovus affiliated bank.

Click here for more information on homeless shelters in Columbus, Ga.

Copyright 2013 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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