OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Homeless shelters are preparing for the winter blast Tuesday with frigid temperatures, below zero wind chills, snow, ice and sleet on the horizon.
“Cold weather, especially the kind of weather we’re going to have later this week, can literally be deadly,” said Dan Straughan, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance.
“People experiencing homelessness who are outside in this weather are at risk of frostbite, hypothermia and potentially even death,” said Kinsey Crocker with the Homeless Alliance.
Right now, both Straughan and Crocker said their main goal, along with other shelters in the city, is to bring people inside and keep them safe.
“We work really hard to get people to come in because it is literally life-threatening,” Straughan said.
According to Straughan, the homeless population is around 1,600 on any given night in Oklahoma City. That generally becomes a problem with only about 900 beds in the eight or so shelters around town.
“So, you can do the math that leaves a lot of folks out of the shelter,” Straughan said.
At the Homeless Alliance alone, there are about 80 beds listed. One day last month when it was cold, Straughan said they fit in about 198 people and 20 dogs. He said they don’t turn people away and actively go out and try to bring them in with outreach teams.
“Their job is to go out into the community and try to identify people who are experiencing homelessness, whether that be in camps or just out and about in the community and try to connect them with services,” Crocker said.
This isn’t only a job when it gets cold either. It’s an everyday job for trained social workers at multiple shelters and city agencies and organizations. They venture across the city to let people experiencing homelessness know what’s happening and where the help is.
Right now, though, the main service they’re hoping to get to people is warmth and shelter.
“Anybody can come in,” Crocker said. “We allow anyone and their pets. There’s no I.D. required to get in. We just want to make sure people are inside and safe.”
Multiple shelters around the city will open overflow shelters and go into overnight mode during the upcoming winter blast. There will also be a free shuttle going in between so they don’t have to walk to get to them. The best way to help, according to Straughan, is with donations like winter clothing, hats, gloves, shoes and more.