Johnson City

Salvation Army aid expands as temperatures fall

Deep freeze rising costs

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The deep freeze is causing many people to have to dig deep into their pockets just to keep their homes warm.

News 5 discovered some people are forced to choose between eating or heating as their electric bill rises when the temperature falls.

When the weather is cold, hundreds of people come to the Salvation Army Center of Hope in Johnson City for a hot meal and place to stay.

But everyone in this line doesn't need a home. "I have my own place; I come over here to the Salvation Army to eat. I pay my bills," said Charles Gobble.

But for Charles Gobble, his heating bills are getting higher as the temperature gets lower. "It starts to get rocky [when] food stamps run out," said Gobble.

He tells us during the winter he often has to decide whether to buy groceries or to pay his bills. "At times I feel like, 'Should I stay home and go hungry, or come here to eat and take care of my bills?' You have to pay your rent; you have to pay your light bill. If you don't, you're stuck out in the cold," said Gobble.

We learned Gobble is not alone. The Center of Hope director Scott Blevins tells us his staff serves between 75 to 80 people per week who have their own home, but they rely on the Salvation Army for their meals. "A significant number of people are coming, especially during the cold weather. Heating bills are up, expenses are up," said Scott Blevins.

He tells us some of the people are on a fixed income and a slight rise in their cost of living can impact their survival. "Some of them will either have to make a decision to buy their medicines and put gas in their car, so a great deal of people will come to the Salvation Army and eat," said Blevins.

Chad Matherly tells us he comes from Elizabethton everyday just to get a meal. "The money I can use on my food can be used to pay bills. I can save a little of money," he said.

Gobble tells us despite his circumstances, he's thankful. "If it's just your first meal and your last meal. You get your belly full during the times you come and eat. I am grateful that they do serve a meal," said Gobble.

The Salvation Army Center of Hope provides two meals a day to the community.

They tell us Tuesday night more than 90 people spent the night and ate at their shelter.

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