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Memphians address issues ahead of dropping temperatures

Weatherization can be energy efficient and lead to lower bills, but since local demand rises as temperatures drop, sometimes it’s hard for contractors to keep up.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the temperatures continue to drop, many Memphians are looking for ways to stay warm. 

For some it’s an extra blanket, others a heater, and for some it’s weatherizing their homes. Weatherization can be energy efficient and lead to lower bills, but since local demand rises as temperatures drop, sometimes it’s hard for contractors to keep up.

“Weatherization is still relatively new to the Memphis area,” says Chad Bowman, Weatherization Sr. Program Manager for the city of Memphis.

For the past five years, the city has had an assistance program to help the elderly, disabled, and families with low income.

“It depends on the household size and the amount of income coming into the household,” said Bowman.

However, if you would like to take advantage of the assistance program now, it may take longer than you would hope.

“Our program is so overwhelmed. When we first opened up in 2017, we had enough applicants to complete for a four to five year period of time,” said Bowman.

To help counteract the constant demand, the program has been sharing clients with MLGW and TVA. Otherwise the Weatherization Assistance Program mainly focuses on emergency clients for now.

“If there’s an emergency where someone needs heat and there is no heat, we try to address those clients and actually make them a client.  And this is just a caveat we’ve started to do just because the need is so great, especially during inclement weather,” said Bowman.

One of the main issues facing the program and stopping more clients from being taken on is the lack of contractors able to handle the weatherization process.

“The issue has always been that there aren’t really any ‘weatherization’ contractors in Memphis.  At this rate right now we only have two qualified contractors,” said Bowman.

Right now, Bowman is leading the charge to try and fix, partnering with local organizations to trainer the next generation of weatherization contractors, and finding new contractors through area interest, and a bilingual initiative.

“We think it will help embellish our program, get more contractors and have more folks working and taking more clients in the Memphis area,” said Bowman.

One of the other ways people try to beat the cold is through warming centers, but after complications in weeks past, some Memphians are concerned. They want to make sure those centers are more accessible for the communities who need it most ahead of the cold.  

Shelby County Commissioner Britney Thornton is one of the voices calling for change. She said in the past the centers haven’t really appealed to the homeless population like the ones in Orange Mound, who may not have access to a phone, email, or the internet to get notifications about the current state of the warming center. 

“I’m a huge advocate for neighborhood, I’m a huge advocate for decentralizing homelessness, everyone that’s homeless does not live downtown, nor should we have to force them to go downtown into space that they feel uncomfortable in, that they don’t feel safe in and that they’re stuck in,” said Commissioner Thornton.

For an up to date list on available warming centers, you can follow the Memphis Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management Facebook pages.

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