Dallas homeless shelters brace for bed shortage as temperatures drop

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With winter temperatures plummeting at night, the City of Dallas and area nonprofits are working together to help people experiencing homelessness.

"We have been called into parking lots to identify bodies of people who are literally dying on the streets," says Pastor Wayne Walker, CEO at the nonprofit OurCalling. "This is a real life-threatening situation for people experiencing homelessness."

This year, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center will not be used as a cold weather shelter. That, along with the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing increased need and filling shelters to the max, means there is a huge shortage of beds this cold season.

"We know we have about 1,000 beds less than year," Walker says. "And we know the need is going to explode in the next few weeks."

For the rest of the year, the City of Dallas is prepared to procide 120 hotel rooms to shelter people when temperatures tip below freezing. Last night, Walker says those hotel rooms filled up quickly and didn’t meet the need.

OurCalling stepped in to help, partnering with several other shelter agencies to provide more hotel rooms. Partner agencies include Austin Street CenterThe Bridge Homeless Recovery CenterSalvation Army of North TexasUnion Gospel MissionThe StewpotFamily Gateway and Oak Lawn United Methodist Church.

Each nonprofit helped serve the overall mission. Oak Lawn United Methodist Church helped with fundraising and volunteer support, while Austin Street provided staffing for the hotel. Dallas Hope Charities served hot meals and The Stewpot managed transportation at the OurCalling triage location.

Walker says to serve the community, this kind of collaboration is necessary. Even so, he says before things get better, they’re going to get worse.

Nonprofits are preparing for that.

“Part of the preparation is for us to raise more money to put people in hotels,” Walker says. “We want people to know that they can help.”

Donations made at ourcalling.org​ help people experiencing homelessness get off the streets. Walker says volunteers are also desperately needed, and you can find information about volunteering online as well.

“We need as much support as we can get from the community,” Walker says.