Last week the Ministerial Alliance and members of First United Methodist Church of Batesville created a hotline for people to call if they lost power and needed help getting to a warm place to stay. On Thursday, Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh announced the Batesville Aquatics and Community Center would be available for anyone to come in and shower if they have frozen or broken water pipes at home.

”We did have a few drop in and take showers,” Elumbaugh said Friday.

Barrett Moore with FUMC said there was a huge outpouring of support from the community for the hotline ministry.

“We helped five persons find shelter during this winter weather, including two people in Mammoth Spring who heard about the number on the radio. The two truly homeless people in town were put on the phone with us by area residents who had heard about the service, saw someone in need, and then called the number,” Moore wrote.

“As far as this ministry, we’ll start it back up the next time it gets sufficiently cold outside, just like we did with the warming center previously. I don’t think we’ve had enough donations from the community at large to cover the entire cost of the hotel rooms, but the ministerial alliance and members of FUMC are happy to make up the difference. So yes, we’ll continue it so long as we have volunteers and the means to do so. Once the pandemic passes, I anticipate we’ll want to reopen our house as a warming center at FUMC, too.”

Across the south, people joke about milk and bread shortages at the grocery store ahead of any mention of snow. Prepping for a winter storm may not be as easy for low-income families.

Food and water

In rural areas, where the closest store may be a dollar store, the store shelves can empty out quickly with a forecast of winter weather. Low-income families may not have the money to purchase extra supplies in bulk right before a storm. The American Red Cross recommends having a two-week supply of non-perishable, easy to prepare items in the home. Besides the cost, low-income families may not have space to keep that much food tucked away. Another headache of the winter storm was frozen and broken water pipes. The American Red Cross recommends one gallon of water, per person, per day, within the home, plus keeping used bath or shower water for flushing commode. Low-income families may not have the space to keep that much water and keep it from freezing.

Shelter

Low-income individuals may live in older homes that aren’t insulated well, or they may live in all-electric, multi-unit apartments.When the power goes out, they may not have a wood-burning or gas stove to turn to for heat and cooking. Having a gas-powered generator in these situations may not be financially or logistically possible. Generators start around $300. Plus there’s the added upkeep of gallons of gas, and stabilizer to keep the gas usable when the generator isn’t in use. Plus, the pull-type starter on most generators can prove difficult for some people.

Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh said in a text that in addition to the street department working to plow streets, the water department was also out attending to water leaks.

”If there is major power outages we will open up the community center for a shelter,” Elumbaugh wrote.

Safety

When the power goes out people make a hard decision: Stay and wait it out, or try find another place to shelter from the storm. Family structure can make this decision even more difficult: Children, elderly family members with mobility issues, pets, farm animals, all play into the decision. Getting someplace else in the snow isn’t easy either. Driving in the snow requires the right kind of vehicle, the right kind of tires: Both of which are all pricey purchases for low-income families.

The cost of the storm

Road departments worked diligently to keep up with the record breaking temperatures and conditions, but for some earners in low income families, they may be pressured by managers to show up for work..This can mean they may have to take the “good” vehicle in, leaving family members without transportation if something happens. For others missing a week of work, means being a week’s pay short at the end of the month: A utility bill, a late car payment, an insufficient funds fee, which means the storm will continue to have impacts long after the snow has melted.

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