Dallas – Dallas and Collin counties are seeing record number of homeless people in the area this year who struggle with the low temperatures during the winter.
These people are exposed to great, life-threatening risk as they are in need of warm place to stay, especially during the nights when temperatures are much lower compared to daylight temperatures.
The city’s temporary inclement weather shelter program allows organizations to apply for a permit to open when the temperature is forecasted by the National Weather Service to be 36 degrees in wet weather and 32 degrees in dry weather for three hours or more.
So far, Oaklawn United Methodist Church is the only organization approved.
Oaklawn United Methodist Church started opening its doors for homeless people five years ago for the first time when a homeless woman froze to death at a bus stop near a different Dallas church, according to Reverend Rachel Baughman.
She was the one who started working with the City of Dallas and homeless advocates to bring up an emergency plan for the homeless once temperatures go down during the winter months.
“Were made to love our neighbor. We’re made to take care of each other. It’s very basic as far as I’m concerned,” Rev. Baughman said.
Her effort resulted with on ordinance in 2019 allowing temporary shelters to open in winter for the homeless, but it didn’t work in practice because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last weekend, the ordinance was used for the very first time when temperatures dropped below freezing.
“We were able to come together in a really efficient way and provide shelter to over 500 people,” said Cristine Crossley, director of the City of Dallas Office of Homeless Solutions.
According to the ordinance, those who will decide to open their doors for the homeless will be granted help from the City of Dallas. The city will provide different kinds of help like staff and Covid-19 testing for the homeless before entering the shelters.
Every single person is tested for Covid-19 and the results are ready in a matter of minutes which is pretty important in a period when there is an increasing number of cases in the last couple of weeks.
On Thursday night, 70 cots were prepared for the homeless, but the organizers said there is a back-up plan if more people show at the door.
Crossley said that she expects more organizations to apply to become shelters and help those in need.