As freezing temperatures approach this week, the Dallas Office of Homeless Solutions (OHS) will activate inclement weather shelters for those in need of warmth.
Temporary Inclement Weather Shelters (TIWS) will be open Thursday-Sunday from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following morning, according to a memo from OHS Director Christine Crossley.
Four locations are planned to be used as shelters: the Austin Street Shelter Annex at 2929 Hickory St., Oak Lawn United Methodist Church at 3014 Oak Lawn Ave., Warren United Methodist Church at 3028 South Malcolm X Blvd., and J. Erik Jonsson Central Library at 1515 Young St.
The OHS has recently instituted a new TIWS plan that operates in three phases, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Phase 1 opens the Austin Street shelter as the primary site, along with the two churches. When those three locations reach capacity, Phase 2 will activate the library as an additional shelter. According to the inclement weather shelter plan, Phase 3 will activate when all four of the previous locations reach capacity, opening Fair Park as the new primary site. Everyone sheltered at the other locations will then be transported to Fair Park.
The City told The Dallas Express that while the OHS is prepared to open Fair Park if necessary, officials do not expect it will be required.
“Historically, OHS has deployed a larger shelter site when we anticipate an extremely high number of people seeking shelter due to precipitation,” said public relations officer Page Jones Clark. “Currently, precipitation is not in the forecast. However, OHS is prepared if the weather should turn.”
Last week, the Dallas City Council approved a lease agreement for the Austin Street Shelter and a use agreement with Fair Park for sheltering purposes.
Both agreements were originally intended to begin at the start of the new year, but they were put into effect immediately last Wednesday after a motion by Councilmember Paula Blackmon (District 9), who wanted the OHS to “utilize it starting today.” Blackmon’s suggestion may prove practical, considering the forecasted temperatures for this week.
In addition to the City’s sheltering plans, there are churches and nonprofits across DFW that will provide warming shelters to those in need. While many of those who take advantage of these warming shelters are homeless or vagrant, they are open to anyone who may need them — for example, someone whose power has gone out.
In South Dallas, Cornerstone Baptist Church and the Cornerstone Community Laundromat have partnered with each other to provide shelter.
“When the freezing temperatures come, they have a place to go,” said Will Reeves, the laundromat manager. Reeves added that he was once homeless and knows what it is like to live on the streets.
“For those that have no shelter to go do, they have a safe haven right here,” he said.
Pastor Chris Simmons of Cornerstone Baptist Church said, “The goal is to keep individuals alive.”
“Individuals have froze[n] to death, literally at the doors of our church,” he added.
Simmons said at least 100 people can stay safe and warm at the laundromat, but people are not allowed to sleep there by order of the City.
“We don’t provide a sleeping environment, [but] we will allow them to stay up,” he said.
Other locations including recreation centers and libraries will be open across DFW to help people stay warm. A complete list of warming shelters can be found here.
The Dallas Express recently reported on a presumed vagrant who was arrested on Saturday for allegedly smashing in the windows of a Ford pickup truck in Downtown Dallas and stealing items out of the vehicle.