State fairgrounds building will serve as warming shelter during cold temperatures

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — As bitter cold temperatures start to grip Central Arkansas, a new idea is ready to be put to the test. A warming shelter will be open at the state fairgrounds, giving plenty of space to be safe and warm up.

Aaron Reddin founded “The Van,” a group that assists the homeless community in Arkansas.

“We do outreach to unsheltered homeless folks across Central Arkansas,” Reddin said. “We try to meet immediate needs wherever we can.”

Reddin said many people don’t have a place to safely sleep when temperatures drop, and he wanted to identify a place that could help.

“We were looking for something we could get for a night, three nights, five nights, whatever the weather dictated,” Reddin said.

During last year’s severe winter storms, Reddin reached out to the Arkansas State Fairgrounds, and operators opened it up for people.

“When we started talking with them, they said the Hall of Industry would be perfect,” Reddin said.

The building is big enough to comfortably house hundreds of people with distancing, said Will Hornburg, the fairgrounds’ Director of Sales and Promotions.

“We just get our guys on standby, get everybody ready to go, put everything in there they need and open it up and let them use it,” Hornburg said.

It costs $1,200 on the first night of operation and $1,000 per following night, Reddin said, and the city stepped in and agreed to chip in.

“The city said hey, we’re going to pay the bill on this,” Hornburg said. “We said that’s fine. It was really good to see the city step up and help out, the city of Little Rock.”

Freezing temperatures aren’t just an inconvenience, said Pastor William Holloway, the CEO of the Little Rock Compassion Center. 

“In some cases, if it’s cold enough, it might freeze them and kill them,” Holloway said.

Reddin said he hopes the plan will save lives.

“We’ll bring in air purifiers and make it much safer than the spaces we’ve used in the past,” Reddin said.

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