JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- James Mitz says he spent 10 years in prison. Now he says he is trying to get his life back on track. Friday night he will be one of the many homeless people looking for shelter in the cold Jacksonville night.
Once the temps drop below 40 degrees, some shelters like the Salvation Army Towers, City Rescue Mission and Sulzbacher Center, open up for what's called 'cold night shelter'.
"I came here to try to start my life over. I didn't want to go back to the same environment," Mitz says.
After being released he chose Jacksonville, a city hundreds of miles away from a painful past.
"While I don't have anywhere to stay they let me stay in the library when it's cold and raining," he said.
Mitz says he's on a waiting list to be able to call the Sulzbacher Center home.
Until then, he'll join the dozens of men, women and children who seek temporary shelter at the Sulzbacher Center when North Florida experiences winter weather below 40 degrees.
"People that are living on the street can freeze to death," said Cindy Funkhouser, president and CEO of the Sulzbacher Center.
Funkhouser says local shelters often coordinate on really cold nights like Friday's to make sure there's space for anyone in need.
"We just put pallets on the floor. And we will take as many people as will come," Funkhouser said.
She says on any given night 350 people fill the bunks here -- around 200 of them are women and children.
On a cold night they expect anywhere from 20 to 40 additional people.
It is far from lavish, but it is close enough to home. It is a space that this man says he's grateful for.
"It's just too cold," one man told First Coast News. "I have the gout in my knees and when the weather changes a lot my knees really ache."
Funkhouser said the Sulzbacher Center is working to hand out blankets, coats, hats and gloves to area homeless.
Funkhouser says Luckily people have been very generous through the holidays, but there are still many other shelters in our area where you can donate
First Coast News