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Cold weather marks homeless vigil tonight

MANATEE — As homeless advocates hold a candlelight vigil for the homeless tonight, Manatee’s lone shelter is preparing to be overflowing with people seeking to get out of the cold.

With temperatures expected to drop into the 30s with wind chill, the Salvation Army is expecting a packed shelter with the homeless looking for a place to sleep.

Typically, about 60 people a night seek shelter services, but that number jumped into the 80s Sunday night, and the Salvation Army is expecting many more than that tonight at its shelter, 1204 14th St. W.

“The people out there who were able to stick it out last night probably suffered so much that they do not want to go through it again tonight,” said Salvation Army Men’s Lodge Assistant Manager Mike Zaffino.

Zaffino said the normal $8 daily fee to stay in the shelter will be waived for the cold weather, and no one will be turned away.

“They are just miserable out there,” Zaffino said. “We have had people coming in here in shorts.”

Both the Manatee and Sarasota Salvation Army shelters are expected to be full on a night when area homeless advocates are holding a vigil to highlight the “tragedy of homelessness,” and also to remember 32 homeless people who died in Manatee and Sarasota counties this year.

“It is kind of fitting that the vigil is on a night when we expect our shelters will be overflowing,” said Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness Executive Director Richard Martin. “The Salvation Army will be using every mat they have to provide shelter.”

Martin said in remembering the homeless who lost their lives, ranging in age from 23 to 74, always brings to light the difficult life many face on the street.

“I am always struck by the ages of the people we have lost,” Martin said. “Many of them are very young, and it just hits home how hard it is to survive living on the street.”

The vigil will be held from 6 to 7 tonight at the Sarasota Salvation Army headquarters at 1400 Tenth St.