By Rachel Stoltzfoos
Alabama officials were unable to open an emergency homeless shelter Monday because the auditorium was being used for a Sen. Bernie Sanders rally, forcing hundreds of homeless people to seek shelter from freezing temperatures elsewhere.
About 300 people sought shelter inside the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham last week, which served as an emergency warming station for three nights because of unusually cold weather. But the city was unable to open the auditorium Monday night when temperatures dropped to a years-low 20 degrees.
Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate and self-described socialist, needed the auditorium to host a campaign rally. So the homeless had to seek shelter elsewhere in what felt like 15 degree weather.
“We’ve never had a night like this where it will be in the teens and we weren’t able to open,” Don Lupo, of the mayor’s office of citizen’s assistance, told an Alabama news outlet. Lupo later urged people angry and concerned about the shutdown to work together to come up with a better solution.
Getting mad at Sanders, or another group that booked the auditorium earlier Monday, will not “get us anywhere,” Lupo said in Facebook post. “what [sic] gets us somewhere is doing something about our problem.”
Lupo urged the people to consider new ideas to deal with the housing problem. “Maybe tomorrow we’ll wake up with a fresh idea of what to do — maybe tomorrow someone or some group will call and offer space when the space at Boutwell can’t be used,” he said.
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