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Where do people who are homeless people shelter in the Cape Fear during a hurricane?

Good Shepherd

As Hurricane Idalia bears down on coastal North Carolina, some of the Cape Fear’s more than 500 homeless individuals are seeking shelter, in hotels, with family, or in Wilmington's last remaining overnight shelter.

After the closure of the Salvation Army earlier this year, Good Shepherd Center became the only remaining overnight homeless shelter for men, women, and families in Wilmington.

Executive Director Katrina Knight says that means extra responsibility during a crisis like a hurricane.

“As the only operating shelter currently for men, women, and families. Like, we're already full to the hilt," Knight said. "I mean, we've already got 100 adults and children every night. But obviously in a situation like this, even if it's a challenge, we're going to step up and try to do even more.”

The shelter plans to set up cots in the dining room to shelter anyone who typically comes for daytime services. But Knight says a lot of unsheltered might wait out the storm in their cars or in unsanctioned encampments.

“Sometimes the same brain chemistry or decision making that makes you feel less anxious being in your car or in a camp, that sometimes that same decision making is at play, even when something really serious is bearing down,” she said.

That was the case for at least one of her clients during Florence, and she didn't find out he had stayed out in the storm until weeks later.

Knight says those who do come into the shelter often realize it’s a lot less scary than they might have assumed — and staff then get the chance to connect them with services, and hopefully with more permanent housing.

Others are finding alternative options, according to regional advocates, staying with friends or family for a night or using their limited income from disability checks to get hotel rooms.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.