SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) — The Concho Valley Homeless Planning Coalition is asking for the community’s help in operating the City of San Angelo’s overnight emergency warming shelter in anticipation of the upcoming frigid winter weather.
This year, the coalition is partnering with the City to open a congregate warming shelter at the Carl Ray Johnson Recreation Center, located at 1103 Farr St. According to the CVHPC, the facility will be open on nights that are 36 F and under that have at least a 50% chance of precipitation or 32 F with less than a 50% chance of precipitation.
The shelter will be open from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays that meet the weather criteria. On weekends that meet the criteria, it will be open from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“Last year, we activated around 80 nights, and so it is a pretty big need,” Mike Burnett, the Concho Valley Community Action Agency’s executive director, said. “These unsheltered people, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends, our family. They’re people we run into all the time, and they deserve to be in a place that’s warm and safe during the winter as well.”
The shelter is hosted in part due to a program called “Into the Warmth.” The program is run by a group of agencies found throughout the Concho Valley — such as United Way, West Texas Counseling & Guidance and several churches — in order to pool together resources and provide San Angelo’s homeless population with shelter from the elements.
Such an effort needs helping hands in order to run, however, and that’s where volunteers come in. According to Sidney Timmer, the outreach and marketing director of the CVCAA, volunteers will be provided with training ahead of time. From there, they will most likely be asked to help supervise those taking refuge at the shelter, be it through maintaining a list of those needing access to resources provided at the facility or by watching over the crowd to ensure that everyone is OK.
“We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re floundering out there,” Timmer said. “A lot of it just comes down to supervision and making sure that everyone’s OK and that there’s nothing happening like theft or anything else like that.”
The CVHPC has also been reaching out to churches and service groups throughout San Angelo to ask for them to pledge just a week of service. Groups that accept will handle volunteer recruitment and provide snacks on any of the seven nights that the shelter gets activated. If the shelter is not activated during the week the organization is signed up for, they are relinquished from their duty.
“In a city of 100,000 people and over 100 religious groups, we should be able to easily cover this shelter three-fold,” Timmer said.
The coalition has planned for a 16-week winter season that lasts from mid-November to early March. The shelter receives weather forecasts two days in advance from the National Weather Service to ensure that the shelter is open when it is needed the most.
Though those a part of Into the Warmth have planned in advance for the inclement weather, the cold conditions’ unexpected early arrival this week has placed a fast-approaching deadline for the shelter to be ready by. According to Timmer, a 2023 census conducted by the CVHPC showed that there were a minimum of 198 homeless individuals in San Angelo, with approximately 60 expected to use the warming shelters repeatedly throughout this winter.
“This week’s unexpected freeze came earlier than expected and showed us that there is much less time than anticipated,” Timmer said. “We need your help to spread the word that we need community members and churches to step up and protect our most vulnerable neighbors.”