While Birmingham has announced a warm-up centre, a city official confirms that no direct outreach is taking place to promote it

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Moments before Birmingham announced it would be opening the BJCC as a warming station for at least two nights this week, a city official confirmed that no direct outreach was taking place for the promote.

On Wednesday evening, a public information officer from Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office announced via email the opening of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex as a warm-up station on Thursday and Friday evenings. Moments before, Don Lupo, the city’s director of operations, said in an interview with CBS 42 that no direct outreach to promote the warming center was taking place.

“We are reaching out to a group,” Lupo said, referring to local One Roof. homeless advocacy group“which is the umbrella organization for all homeless service providers, and they’re spreading the word.”

Erica “Star” Robbins, the founder of Be a Blessing Birminghamwhich provides assistance to homeless people, said the city should make a concerted effort to directly inform those in need about the warming station and ensure they have a way to access the site.

“Not only should this be promoted, but we should provide transportation for elderly and disabled citizens in our neighborhoods,” Robbins said.

The official announcement of the BJCC opening as a warming station comes just days after the town faced criticism when it did not open the Boutwell Auditorium on Sunday as snow fell on the magic city.

According to city officials, Boutwell Auditorium was “unavailable” as a warm-up center that day.

A joint statement from Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and One Roof Executive Director Michelle Farley released on Monday says the city has been providing supplies to local shelters instead.

“The City of Birmingham and One Roof connected ahead of this weekend’s weather event,” the statement read. “Because the Boutwell Auditorium was unavailable, the city was able to offer support in the form of beds, food and masks/PPE to providers in the area so that the shelters could accommodate as many people as possible safely. security.”

Lupo resisted providing a reason why the Boutwell was unavailable on Sunday. When pressed, the longtime city employee said “there was a contract for the building”, although he did not confirm the parties involved in the deal.

Rock City Birmingham held a church service in the city center from 11 a.m. on Sunday, according to his Facebook page. A schedule on Boutwell’s website shows the auditorium was booked by the church between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

That morning the Church of the Highlands also held a service, theirs at the BJCC, according to their website.

Lupo said Boutwell, BJCC and Parker High School are the three sites the city looks to when opening a warming station.

On Wednesday, Birmingham City School Board chairman Jason Meadows said Parker High School had been made available to the city as a warm-up station.

“Dr. Sullivan had a conversation with the mayor and made Parker available,” Meadows said.

Meadows said he wasn’t sure any conversations about turning Parker High into a warm-up center took place until Sunday night. He also told CBS 42 that he couldn’t confirm if Parker was available Sunday night.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Meadows said. The city did not announce any plans for Parker High School Wednesday night.

When asked if booking Boutwell or BJCC during the day would prevent the city from operating a warming station at night, Lupo referred the questions to the city’s legal department.

Policies regarding the opening of warming centers vary from city to city. Some cities are opening warming centers every day the temperature drops below zero. Others use more complex formulas to know when they should open, taking into account factors such as rainfall and wind.

Lupo described Birmingham’s policy on warming stations.

“When temperatures drop below 32 (degrees) on consecutive nights and when space is available, we try to do a warming station,” he said.

In its announcement that the BJCC will open Thursday and Friday, the city said a warming station will also be open Monday and Tuesday “if current forecasts for freezing temperatures hold.”

Asked about Saturday and Sunday nights, Lupo said he didn’t expect temperatures to drop enough to warrant a warming station under city policy.

Lupo confirmed that city and BJCC officials met on Wednesday to discuss the matter. He wouldn’t say if the Birmingham Squadron game planned to take place Saturday night was discussed at this meeting, which was closed to the public.

“Temperatures won’t drop below zero,” he said instead.

Robbins said the city’s lack of direct outreach about warming stations is a sign of a systemic problem.

“I am extremely disappointed in the lack of concern for everyone’s well-being in our 99 neighborhoods,” she said. “Housed or not, they matter.”

As for Thursday and Friday, the BJCC South Exhibition Hall will be open as a warm-up center from 6 to 8 a.m. Thursday and 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, depending on the city.