A Franklin church will open its doors to people experiencing homelessness when it launches the city’s first year-round emergency shelter later this year.

The Williamson County Homeless Alliance, a group of pastors and city leaders that formed earlier this year, announced Friday that Franklin First United Methodist Church will provide emergency shelter any time the temperature rises above 90 degrees or dips below 32 degrees.

Franklin Community Church Pastor Kevin Riggs founded the WCHA in March to focus finding a permanent shelter location, which would be the first in Williamson County.

Riggs, who for many years has volunteered with the area’s homeless population, estimated 750 to 1,000 people are experiencing homelessness in the state’s most affluent county.

He said that he was “shocked” that WCHA had found a temporary shelter in just a few months.

The temporary shelter is set to open Aug. 1 and will have capacity for 12 people. It will be open for one year while the WCHA searches for a permanent shelter location.

“I want to emphasize that we are extremely grateful to the church,” he said. “What has happened in two months is unbelievable.”

The coalition received two anonymous gifts totaling $15,000 to help with shelter expenses.

Riggs said the church shelter will be open to men, women and families, and the space will be monitored by two paid staff members. Volunteers will provide meals.

Summer emergency shelter has never before been provided in the county.

“The challenge in the summer heat will be getting the word out to the homeless that we are open and picking them up,” Riggs said.

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The city did not have an emergency this past winter. Riggs had been operating a small emergency shelter for men in a warehouse owned by One Generation Away, but the nonprofit moved and Riggs lost the space.

Riggs said he hoped to open a permanent shelter in the next two years.

The WCHA includes representatives from churches and local organizations, including Williamson Inc., Habitat for Humanity Williamson County and Community Health Systems.

The coalition has now partnered with the Nashville Rescue Mission and Citygate Network, a national group that supports those assisting people experiencing homelessness, as it builds its plan for a permanent shelter.

How you can help

The WCHA is in the process of becoming a licensed nonprofit, and, for now, donations for shelter can be made online to Franklin Community Church’s Franklin Community Development program.

Riggs is collecting blankets, twin-size sheets and pillows to be used in the temporary shelter.

He can be reached by email at kevin@franklincommunitychurch.org for more information.

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Reach Amelia Ferrell Knisely at aferrell@tennessean.com, 615-210-8286 or follow @ameliaknisely on Twitter.

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