A local nonprofit organization is battling to save lives this summer as North Texas experiences extreme heat, and its two main weapons in the fight are water and ice. When We Love, a “nonprofit organization serving youth, single-parent families, and veterans struggling with poverty and homelessness” in Tarrant County, is currently focused on providing hydration and a cooling station for those in need.
When We Love has transformed its lobby into an air-conditioned cooling station, with space for roughly 40 individuals to seek refuge from the heat outside. Currently, the organization hands out at least two pallets of bottled water daily. Volunteers keep the ice chests full to accommodate the influx of homeless and vagrant persons who frequent the building.
Keith Moxley, a member of the Fort Worth homeless population, told WFAA that getting the resources to stay hydrated is a “godsend.”
Moxley, like hundreds of others, stops by the When We Love facilities regularly to receive free ice and water.
So far this season, there have been at least 33 days with triple-digit temperatures, with weather forecasters predicting more to come.
North Texas typically experiences 20 days with temperatures at 100 degrees or above in an average summer. Dallas County has reported one heat-related death this year, and Tarrant County has reported three.
In Tarrant County, 3,008 people experienced lived on the street or in shelters between January and June 2022, according to the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition (TCHC). Over a two-year period, 18% of youth return to homelessness, as do 29% of veterans and 13% of families.
The When We Love organization was started years ago by Gary Wilkerson, who at one time had been homeless himself. He explained that he became homeless after a failed business and having daughters who experienced drug abuse and addiction.
“As I began to rebuild my life from those bad moments, the business failures and the loss of everything that we had, [I] reevaluated my life,” he stated to WFAA. “I started volunteering for a couple of local organizations, and I feel like that God kind of led me to what I’m doing today. I’ve been doing it now for 14 years, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
He now considers it to be his purpose in life to assist others.
When We Love partners with other groups to provide resources for the homeless. The nonprofit received assistance earlier this month from a group of teenagers from a church in Keller. In addition to giving out ice and cool water, the teens also picked up trash as part of their mission.
The nonprofit is always looking for volunteers who are willing to serve others. “If you’re really interested in helping, we’d love to have you contact us and volunteer with us,” Wilkerson said.
The nonprofit is supported entirely by donations. The organization accepts items like socks, blankets, and wipes, which are needed for those who do not have access to regular baths and showers. And especially now, as the summer heat drags on, When We Love needs donations of bottled water, either by the case or by the pallet.
When We Love is located in downtown Fort Worth at 1100 East Lancaster Ave.
Tarrant County has 40 organizations that offer services to the homeless. Still, between April 1 and June 30 of this year, 4,210 people were homeless or vagrant, according to TCHC data — the highest number since Q1 of 2019, and up 14% from Q1 of 2022. Of those, 44% were homeless or vagrant for between one and six months, 16% were homeless or vagrant for between six and 12 months, and 12% were homeless or vagrant for more than a year.