Local Jax Beach church opens its doors to keep the homeless warm during Arctic blast

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — With cold weather hitting the area tonight, many Jacksonville shelters are opening their doors to keep those without homes from being left out in the cold.


St. Pauls by the Sea Episcopal Church is turning their church into a shelter for the next few days.

Action News Jax saw at least 10 people who were outside earlier today waiting for the shelter to open at noon.

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According to church officials, as it gets colder and colder throughout the night and the holiday weekend they are expecting more people to use their shelter.

“This place here, these are some wonderful people.”

William Stevens, better known as “Chill Will” in the beach community, wants to be warm tonight and throughout the weekend.

Read: Prep your home ahead of freezing temperatures in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia

“This place here, these are some wonderful people,” says Stevens

Stevens is homeless and plans to use the temporary shelter provided by the church for the next few days.

Stevens tells me his faith keeps him upbeat and optimistic.

“It’s kind of hard, but I have the power of god in me, that’s the gift that he gives us. People don’t realize the power that he gave us,” says Stevens.

Stevens tells me he’s been homeless off and on for 30 years, and living on the streets is tough.

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“It’s not good to be out here on the streets. You got a lot of people stealing, killing, and all these things it’s not good at all,” says Stevens.

Blankets, beds, food, and fellowship will be offered inside this shelter all weekend until noon on Monday.

According to Ed O’Brian, who helped set all this up for the church, they want to make sure the homeless are comfortable throughout these next couple of days, when temperatures really dip, they are expecting a big turnout.

“We normally get between 40 and also 50, but mission house told me they are expecting 100,” says O’Brian.

I also spoke with Billy Walker Sr. He is also homeless. He says that the fact that this church opened this homeless shelter with cold weather looming, it’s a gift from God.

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“When the weather drops the people who actually live out here can’t live in the open, that’s the first one. That’s the hardest one that means you have to hide and not be seen,” says Walker Sr.