Macon-Bibb County’s consolidated government and multiple community agencies have joined together to open the Brookdale Warming Center, a facility that will provide for families in need and people who are homeless with a warm and safe place to stay. The Warming Center is located in the former Brookdale Elementary School at 3600 Brookdale Avenue, and it will open at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6.

To watch the full announcement from Monday morning, click here.

The Center is opening at first as only a warming center where people can get out of the cold, take a shower, get three meals per day provided by the Salvation Army, and be safe. It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the next 60-90 days in order to get people through the coldest months. There will be two separate wings of rooms for people to stay in, one for adults and one for families with children. Shower facilities will be made available, and the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office will provide security the entire time. All COVID-19 guidelines will be followed, including temperature checks as people check in to the facility, masks will be required in the building except when eating, and hand sanitizer bottles will be placed around the building. Tables in the cafeteria have been spaced out to enforce social distancing. Moving forward, other services will be provided, including mental health evaluations, educational support, health services, and more.

“What we’re opening this week is just the first step in what we want to make available here,” says Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller. “We eventually want to make health and human services available through our many partners to help meet as many needs as possible.”

“I, like many people, was saddened by the events on Christmas Day, and it’s obvious we needed to do more,” says George McCanless, President & CEO of the United Way of Central Georgia. “This is a great collaboration, and we’re off to a great start. This is a significant undertaking, and I want to make the ask: if you would like to help, there are ways to do that.”

Several of the organizations are in need of specific resources to help run the facility and support the people who will be staying there. The primary need will be volunteers to help run the facility, and you can sign up by visiting the United Way of Central Georgia’s web portal at www.unitedwaycg.org/volunteer or by calling the Salvation Army at 478-746-8572. You can also support the effort by donating the following items or funds. Donations can be brought to the Bert Bivins Fire Station & Sheriff Precinct at 4036 Napier Avenue.

•Gift cards for the Salvation Army to purchase supplies and items as they are needed;

•Books, board games, puzzles, and other activities for people of all ages, including children;

•Gift cards for River Edge Behavioral Health to buy bus passes, medication, and photo identification for people in need of services; and

•Money to the Central Georgia COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund at www.unitedwaycg.org/covid19donate.

“Our entire community should be proud of the outpouring of support and speed of effort to find a temporary solution to this challenge while we work to find effective and sustainable long-term solutions,” adds Mayor Miller. “And we will make it possible for you to help in all of this…because these are challenges that affect all of us, which means it will take all of us to overcome them.”

To get the Warming Center open, a funding source had to be identified to hire staff and crews had to quickly clean out the facility. A generous donation from the United Way of Central Georgia and Community Foundation of Central Georgia’s COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund will make it possible to hire key staff positions for the facility and allow it to open quickly.

“The Community Foundation’s vision is a Central Georgia where philanthropy thrives, communities are strong, and citizens work towards common goals. This warming center and the hard work to get it open certainly embody that vision, and we’re proud and honored to support this work and these partners,” says Community Foundation of Central Georgia President Kathryn Dennis. “By working together, rather than in silos, within a week our community will have opened a larger warming center with more services than what has been available in the past.”

Additionally, the building itself needed to have furniture moved, electricity and internet checked, supplies and resources brought in, cots and desks organized and more. Crews from the Bibb County School District, Fire Department, Public Works Department, Emergency Management Agency, and the Office of Communications spent nearly a week – including the holidays – getting the building physically ready for people to use. Mayor Miller and newly sworn in Commissioners Seth Clark, Bill Howell, and Raymond Wilder were on site every day helping with all aspects of the work. Commissioners Howell and Wilder even drove to Pigeon Forge, TN to pick up a large donation of towels and linens that will be vital in the ongoing operation of the Warming Center. The Recreation Department and the Mentors’ Project of Bibb County have been collecting games and toys for children to use while they are there, and the Health Department has been making sure everything being done is up to code. The Salvation Army will be helping provide the staff, train the volunteers, and provide the meals. Choosing a Quality Life is making a donation of diapers and laundry detergent, and Macon Periods Easier will supply menstrual supplies for those in need, including pads, tampons, liners, and wipes.

Partner agencies involved in the effort being announced include: The Salvation Army of Central Georgia, the Bibb County School District, United Way of Central Georgia, Community Foundation of Central Georgia, the Macon Coalition to End Homelessness, Depaul USA Daybreak, Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority, the Mentors’ Project of Bibb County, Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, River Edge Behavioral Health, North Central Health District, Macon-Bibb County Health Department, Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us), Macon Periods Easier, Choosing a Quality Life, Macon Area Habitat for Humanity, Community Partnership-Bibb County Family Connection, the American Red Cross of Central Georgia. Macon-Bibb County Departments involved with this effort include: Mayor’s Office, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Public Works, Recreation, County Manager’s Office, Budget & Planning, and Communications.