Amid cold snap, St. Francis House opens its doors to anyone


Traffic heads north on Interstate 75 in this view from Wacahoota Road Wednesday, November 27, 2013.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 3:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 3:15 p.m.

St. Francis House is usually full on Thanksgiving, but this year the homeless shelter was full on Thanksgiving eve as well.

With a blast of cold air, the shelter on South Main Street opened its doors Wednesday to anyone who wanted to get out of the weather for the night.

“Anytime the temperature reaches 45 or below, I can bring in additional people. If 60 come, I’ll bring in 60. If 70 come, I’ll bring in 70,” said St. Francis Director Kent Vann. “It just depends on how many nights of cold there will be. If it’s just one night, some people don’t want to pack and come in.”

Standard capacity is 35 people, with a focus on women and families.

Meanwhile, the winter storm that is icing and blanketing with snow much of the northeastern half of the U.S. has not caused any problems so far with scheduled flights in and out of Gainesville, said Gainesville Regional Airport spokeswoman Laura Aguiar Wednesday.

Airports in Atlanta and Charlotte are the primary hubs for Gainesville air traffic. Delays at those airports could result in delays for Gainesville.

“So far, no echo effects from the Northeast,” Aguiar said. “It looks good so far. Any delays we might get will have to be a trickle down thing.”

Wednesday night’s low was expected to be 31 degrees and Thanksgiving Day’s high 60 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures will warm throughout the weekend and plenty of sun is in the forecast. The high for Saturday’s University of Florida football game against Florida State is 72 degrees. The game kicks off at noon.

St. Francis expects to serve 300 to 500 Thanksgiving meals prepared by 100 to 200 volunteers today, Vann said.

The prep work starts about 6:30 a.m. and the serving of meals begins about 10 a.m.

Some meals are to-go, delivered to shut-ins by Gainesville police officers volunteering their time.

“We prepare 35 to 40 turkeys,” Vann said. “All the clients do is sit down. The volunteers go through the serving line and serve as waiter and waitresses. We have the full meal — all the trimmings and all of the desserts.”

Any leftovers are served at dinner or for lunch on Friday, Vann said.

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