As Bitter Cold Settles In, COVID-19 Complicating Efforts To Help Homeless – CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – With dangerously cold weather setting in all of North Texas, efforts to protect the homeless this year will be hampered by COVID-19.

“How cold will it be … [we] wanted to do more than just give clothes, ”said Chris Branigan, senior pastor of Renovation Community Church in southwest Fort Worth. Still, he says, the little church follows CDC guidelines – screening prospective guests and even requiring masks overnight.

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“It’s a problem,” Branigan admits. “I have many health problems myself. But what’s even more worrying right now, with several days below freezing, is that honestly, people on the streets are at a higher risk of dying from exposure than from Covid for the next few days – but it’s a problem So we are we will do our best to mitigate this. “

Also, shelters cannot accommodate everyone who needs help. It is one of several churches in the area trying to fill in some of the loopholes.

“We fear that some of our homeless friends will die,” says Wayne Walker, pastor and exec. Director at Our Calling, which serves the vulnerable on the outskirts of downtown Dallas.

“Unfortunately, much of the philanthropy on the streets, where people are just stacking blankets and providing resources to people in a warehouse, allows them to stay in a life-threatening scenario,” explains Walker. “We’d much rather have them in a shelter on our way to long-term living, and that’s what we offer here every day.”

Today, as part of a partnership with the state, Our Calling continued to offer rapid COVID-19 tests, allowing customers with negative access to shelters.

“I’m like an old Ford pickup,” joked Callen Renard, “I just freeze. I hate the cold weather, I really do.” Renard said he’d made it on the road for the past two years to survive and appreciated the help Our Calling gave to help him get his life back.

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Proponents know that the bitter cold is a serious problem. But it is also an opportunity.

“If someone says,” I’m fine, I’m fine … throw me some more blankets, I’ll be fine outside “, today is an opportunity to really move this conversation forward because they are not well,” he says walking aid.

The city of Dallas changed an ordinance that banned churches from serving as shelters. Still excludes those downtown – including Our Calling. If the nonprofit provides overnight protection, they could be fined. Local leaders say it is a risk they want to take.

“There are much better solutions than playing politics – especially when life and death are involved,” says Walker. “It would be much cheaper and more humane to use the money to rent hotel rooms to protect someone.”

Walker urges those who wish to help the homeless to volunteer or meddle to cover the additional costs associated with opening their facility or hotel rooms later, and says providing services during the bitter Cold could cost more than $ 15,000 a day – and says there are so many out there who need help.

“I can tell you that we are seeing more people than ever before. At this time last year we met 20 to 30 new people a week, now we meet 150 a week. It’s Covid, it’s poverty, it’s the economy, all of the unemployment. Every day people are displaced who lead people onto the streets. A family is going to pull up and we think they are here to volunteer and they say those terrible words – we are homeless [and] I have nothing to do. “

He says the Our Calling team is focused every day on getting her back on her feet.

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“If you can, never try to be homeless,” says Renard, his voice starting to tremble with emotion, “because it’s a rough, rough life … very rough.”

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