Protecting the homeless from the cold and COVID-19 requires cash. Agencies urgently need more.
DALLAS – Any other year, Rev. Rachel Baughman would have spent the past few days preparing Oak Lawn United Methodist Church to serve as shelter from the bitter cold that is about to descend to Dallas.
On cold nights prior to the pandemic, around 85 people typically took to their church to offer a hot meal, group prayer, and a temporary cot.
This freezing state in February – a week of cold temperatures is forecast for North Texas – is in the middle of a global pandemic.
Oak Lawn United Methodist will not be a shelter. The church has not even returned to personal worship.
But it is determined to keep up its service to the weakest.
“The way we’re doing it this year is very different from previous years,” said Baughman.
“We have found that placing people in individual hotel rooms is a more practical option and is safer for everyone.”
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Oak Lawn United Methodist is working with several other Dallas agencies to buy hotel rooms.
Baughman said they started raising funds for the effort months ago, knowing that this winter would require significant financial assistance.
But the money they raised has been used up.
“It costs between $ 10,000 and $ 15,000 to shelter every night. With the funding we have right now and the nights we know we’ll have to deploy this week, we’re running out of about $ 45,000, “she said.
Baughman said coats and gloves are always nice donations, but money would do best right now.
If you want to help, the Oak Lawn United Methodist Church accepts donations on its website.
In Fort Worth, Toby Owen, CEO of Presbyterian Night Shelter, says blankets, towels, coats, gloves, hats and scarves are all in high demand right now.
You can go to the Presbyterian Night Shelter website to make a cash donation, or you can drop things off at 2400 Cypress St. in Fort Worth, two blocks south of East Lancaster, in the last building on the right.
“It’s always a difficult time to be homeless, but it’s extremely hard to live in a pandemic and now with a week of cold weather,” Owen said.
COVID-19 social distancing protocols forced Presbyterian Night Shelter to reduce the number of customers it can serve.
“For our men’s building this means that we had to reduce our capacity by about 50 percent and in our women’s shelter we had to reduce the capacity by about 30 percent,” said Owen.
“Fortunately, the city of Fort Worth has cold weather overflow protection and is open. There will be room for those who want to go in, ”he said.
Owen said Presbyterian Night Shelter hadn’t seen a surge in demand for services during the pandemic, but he was concerned that once national eviction moratoriums were lifted, the number would rise.
Baughman urges anyone who cannot afford to make a donation to remember to spread the word if they discover a homeless man struggling through a cold day or night on the streets of Dallas .
She said reception centers have been set up to meet people in Dallas at Oak Lawn United Methodist, 3014 Oak Lawn Ave., and Our Calling, 1702 S Cesar Chavez Blvd. to help.
“This requires everyone to step in and make sure we share the blessings and privileges we all have,” Baughman said.