With temperatures expected to dip into the 20’s overnight, they could be life-threatening for the growing number of people without a place to live.
Homelessness in Dallas and Collin counties are at record highs.
But more doors are beginning to open in Dallas thanks to an ordinance finally getting put to use.
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.
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So far, Oaklawn United Methodist Church is the only organization approved.
Reverend Rachel Baughman says she began opening doors of the church five years ago after a woman froze to death at a bus stop near a different Dallas church.
Since then, she’s worked with the City of Dallas and homeless advocates to create a plan for weather emergencies.
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“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.
An ordinance allowing temporary shelters to open in winter passed in 2019 but, because of the pandemic, was used for the first time last weekend 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.
The program allows shelters to receive help from the City of Dallas when they open for things like staffing for COVID-19 testing.
Every person who walks through the door is tested for COVID-19 using PCR tests. Results typically take days but at the shelter, they're processed in a matter of minutes.
70 cots were prepared ahead of Thursday night’s cold snap but Rev. Baughman said no one would be turned away.
She says she hopes other organizations apply to become shelters.
Crossley said a few others are working on submitting applications but that none have done so yet.