Some warming shelters are trying to spread the word that pets are welcome in their shelters so people do not brave the single digit temperatures sleeping on the streets.
Open Table Nashville has warming shelters set up at a number of Nashville area churches that allow pets, including a warming shelter at Hillcrest United Methodist Church located at 5112 Raywood Lane.
“People don't realize how important pets are to people who are homeless,” Open Table Outreach, Art and Education director Samuel Lester said. “They usually have very few friends and the pets provide protection and love.”
Lester said the homeless or others who need warmth in the cold will risk freezing to death in the cold rather than leave their animal without warmth.
“If you don't have anything else, it becomes the one friend you can rely on,” he said.
Bruce Casper lives in a tent city with some other homeless people north of Nashville.
He has a four-year-old dog named Baby Girl he keeps with him all the time.
“She is basically my child and I treat her just like a person would treat your child,” he said. “This is the most important thing in the world to me.”
Casper said without the Hillcrest UMC warming shelter having an option to bring Baby Girl the two of them would face the cold night together in their tent.
“There was a church a few weeks ago that said they had a crate for Baby Girl but evidently they didn't have crates,” he said. “They said we can tie her up outside and I said if I do that I might as well sleep outside so I got out.”
Open Table Nashville began opening warming shelters when the temperatures dip below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The organization used to wait until the temperature was lower, but the death of a homeless man last January inspired them to change their policy.
Jimmy Fulmer was found dead on the steps of the East Nashville Freewill Baptist Church on the corner of 10th and Russell streets, January 3, 2013.
Metro Police said at the time freezing temperatures were likely to blame for the death Fulmer.
A friend of Fulmer who is also homeless, told Nashville's News 2 he purchased a $10 blanket for Fulmer Wednesday night to help keep him warm and last checked on him around 3 a.m.
Temperatures overnight the night Fulmer died were in the mid-20s.
For information on warming shelters call 615-800-0195 or the call the cold patrol at 615-255-2475.