New Emergency Broadcast System for Homeless Rolls Out in Dallas

As the temperature dipped Saturday evening, the doors opened at OurCalling and Ricky Anderson took advantage.

“I looked at my text and the phone said find shelter, OurCalling is open at 5 o'clock and I was surprised,” said Anderson, who’s been homeless for several years.

The Dallas non-profit just rolled out its emergency broadcast system.

“We've been collecting their Facebook profiles, gmail accounts, email addresses and cell phone numbers so we can send a message in an emergency like this,” said Wayne Walker, OurCalling’s pastor and executive director.

The faith-based organization often invites homeless in for hot meals, free laundry access and a safe place to stay during the day, but overnight stays are an exception.

“It's very important cause I've had friends that died out in the cold,” Anderson said.

Walker, who founded OurCalling, put his previous experience as a software developer to good use, teaming up with other experts in the tech field.

“In the last month, we've also created another app that allows us to track real time bed availability at all the shelters and so we'll know where people are, where there are empty beds and how to get them there as quickly as possible,” he said.

“The goal is to fill up every single bed before we let anybody sleep here,” said Patrick Palmer, OurCalling’s director of development.

The center is collaborating with about 40 agencies, including shelters and Dallas police, to bus people to warm beds they know are available.

“Every service provider is working in unison with each other and apps like this and nights like this draw us closer together,” Palmer said.

The modern technology is also helping volunteers.

“Text alerts saying ‘hey it's gonna be a cold night tonight, are you willing to help tonight?’ And I'm like yes! - through their alert system,” said Stefanie Meyer.

“We've been told it's pretty groundbreaking, but for us it's using basic technology to reach a different community,” Walker said.

He’s talking about a community that's now plugged in.

“Every place where there's real cold whether should have this for the people to know where to go,” Anderson said.

Those who didn't want to, or weren’t able, to go to a shelter Saturday night were invited to stay at OurCalling and sleep on the floor.

OurCalling's homeless app is free to download. In addition to shelter, it provides quick access to food resources, help with domestic violence and medical care.

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