The Augusta Overnight Emergency Warming Center opened in November in the lower level of the South Parish Congregational Church building and will provide overnight shelter to anyone in need during the upcoming arctic blast, according to its director. The facility is open each night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The exterior of South Parish Congregational Church in Augusta is seen Thursday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — With life-threatening frigid temperatures bearing down Friday and Saturday, an overnight emergency warming center in an Augusta church that opened for the first time this winter plans to do whatever it takes to not turn anyone seeking shelter out into the cold.

The Augusta Overnight Emergency Warming Center, which is located at South Parish Congregational Church at 9 Church St., at the corner of State and Bridge streets in Augusta, initially had a capacity of 25 people a night, but the last few weeks has had as many as 27 to 30 people come spend the night.

Julia Stone, director of the overnight shelter, anticipates the cold temperatures will prompt more unhoused people to seek shelter indoors over Friday and Saturday. She said the shelter can accommodate up to 40 people overnight in their existing space on the lower level of the church building. But, she said church members are scrambling so if more space is needed to safely accommodate everyone, they could open up the building’s upstairs auditorium area as overflow space for homeless people, as well.

She said they have staff on standby to come in if more are needed to take in even more unhoused people.

“We in no way will be turning anyone away — these temperatures are a matter of life and death and our church and our warming center fully intend to make sure no one is out in the elements, no matter what that takes,” Stone said Thursday.

In Augusta, temperatures are expected to drop Friday, reaching a low of minus 18 degrees that night with wind chill values as low as minus 45 and wind gusts as high as 40 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. Similar conditions will continue into Saturday afternoon, with wind chill values as low as minus 43.


“Whenever temperatures drop decidedly below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can leave your body more rapidly. These weather-related conditions may lead to serious health problems,” such as hypothermia and frostbite, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Those without shelter or who live in homes with poor insulation are particularly at risk.

Stone said so far this winter, the center’s first in operation, they have not had to turn away anyone seeking shelter for the night.

We have 30 cots, but also some sleeping bags, but we’d allow people to stay even if we don’t have a cot for them,” Stone said Thursday.

“I have a feeling we’re going to be over 30. I would be surprised if we’re not,” she said. “I’m sure more than just our regular folks will show up, I expect we’ll see some new faces. So far, our staff have been great about being able to manage everything.”

The Augusta Emergency Overnight Shelter is open each night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

This Friday, Saturday and part of Sunday, the city of Augusta will also open up a large room at the Augusta Civic Center as an emergency daytime warming center, for anyone in need of a warm place out of the cold.


The temporary day shelter, in the Cumberland Room accessible through the facility’s south entrance, on the left side of the city-owned Civic Center, will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 7 a.m. to noon on Sunday.

The Augusta Overnight Emergency Warming Center on the Bridge Street side of the South Parish Congregational Church in Augusta, seen Thursday, will provide overnight shelter to anyone in need during the upcoming arctic blast, according to its director. The facility is open each night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

More information on the emergency day shelter is available by calling the Augusta Emergency Warming Center Hotline at 620-8001. City officials suggested, for further assistance and resources for shelter from the elements, people in need call 211, text their zip code to 898-211 or visit

Transportation to and from the daytime emergency shelter can be provided within city limits. Stone said the city is providing a van that will pick up people staying at the overnight shelter and bring them to the daytime emergency shelter, and vice versa. She said the city extended the hours of the temporary day shelter, from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., to line up with the open hours of the overnight warming center.

The Augusta Emergency Overnight Shelter opened for the first time this winter and is a low-barrier overnight shelter where a growing number of unhoused people can take shelter. The center, which the congregation of South Parish Congregational Church agreed to create and operate in their building, accepts donations and its creation was partially funded by $124,000 from the city of Augusta’s allotment of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, as well as a $30,000 grant from the United Way of Kennebec Valley.

The center added much-needed capacity to house homeless people overnight in the Augusta area.

Victoria Abbott, executive director of Bread of Life Ministries, which operates a 44-bed family homeless shelter that opened in 1986 and a 14-bed shelter for homeless veterans in Augusta, said Thursday all but one, single-bed room in the family shelter was full to capacity.

She said the family shelter, where occupants are usually expected to leave the shelter during the day, would, due to the cold, allow and even encourage residents there to remain there during the day rather than venture out into the cold.

“Everybody is staying put for the next three days,” Abbott said, noting once their last remaining room is full they’ll refer others seeking shelter to the overnight center at South Parish. “We’re working together, encouraging people to stay hunkered down. Take the shuttle. Use the resources available at South Parish. I hope they do, because it is dangerously cold.”

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