After Boutwell ‘unavailable’ during snow, Birmingham to open BJCC as warming station on Thursday, Friday

Local News
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On Tuesday evening, a day after Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a joint statement that Boutwell Auditorium was “unavailable” for those seeking shelter from the snow, a city official has announced the BJCC will be open as a warming center on Thursday and Friday nights.

In a public post on his personal Facebook page, Don Lupo, the city’s operations manager, said that more details about the warming station will be available after a “logistics meeting” is held with the BJCC.

The announcement, which had not been shared on the city or mayor’s social media pages as of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, comes just a day after the city faced criticism for saying Boutwell Auditorium, which usually serves as a warming station, was “unavailable” on Sunday night as snow fell across the Magic City.

Rentle Wilson said because the Boutwell was closed, he and two others slept under a concrete overhang Sunday night. (Photo by Lee Hedgepeth)

“The City of Birmingham and One Roof connected in advance of this weekend’s weather event,” a joint statement by Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin and One Roof Executive Director Michelle Farley said. “Because the Boutwell Auditorium was unavailable, the city was able to offer support in the form of cots, food, and masks/PPE to area providers so that the shelters could accommodate as many people as safely possible.”

While the city has not yet explained why the Boutwell Auditorium was unavailable on Sunday night, Rock City Birmingham held a church service at the downtown venue beginning at 11 a.m., according to its Facebook page.

That morning, the Church of the Highlands also held a service, theirs at the BJCC, according to their website.

CBS 42 has reached out to both churches for comment but has not yet heard back.

Both Boutwell Auditorium and the BJCC have been used as warming stations in years past.

Erica “Star” Robbins, the founder of Be a Blessing Birmingham, which provides aid to people facing homelessness, said the announcement by Don Lupo is “too little, too late.”

“The city needs to stop being reactionary and be proactive,” she said. “Winter comes every single year.”

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