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Dallas Convention Center To Provide Homeless People Refuge From Record Cold Temperatures

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Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center
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The City of Dallas is going to open the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Friday to accommodate homeless individuals during the inclement weather.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas will open its doors to shelter people experiencing homelessness during extreme cold weather conditions expected this weekend.

“It’s dangerously cold and we’re trying to convince all folks that are staying out in the streets or people that might be sleeping in their cars to contact us and don’t stay out,” said Brenda Snitzer, Executive Director of The Stewpot, a group that provides services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

The decision by the city to open the convention center came after learning that all emergency shelters are at capacity. Temperatures this weekend are predicted to hit single digits. This will almost certainly be the coldest cold snap this century. Dallas hasn't hit 10 degrees since 1990 and hasn't gone below zero since 1930.

Small fire pits are found all throughout the homeless encampment at Camp Rhonda, in Dallas, on Feb. 5, 2021. Volunteers make warm soup for some of the homeless people who stay there.
Keren Carrión
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KERA
Small fire pits are found all throughout the homeless encampment at Camp Rhonda, in Dallas, on Feb. 5, 2021. Volunteers make warm soup for some of the homeless people who stay there.

“We are currently accommodating 150 people in our collaborative hotel. We have an additional 100 that need a place to go and we don’t have enough hotel rooms and we don’t have enough of all the things. We know this escalated pretty quickly to the point and we need to call on emergency management for the city to assist them,” said Rev. Rachel Griffin Baughman, Senior Pastor at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church.

As temperatures continue to drop, groups have been scrambling trying to get people safe and warm. Earlier Friday, Dallas groups that serve people experiencing homelessness told KERA they were being spread thin and needed more beds.

"We're calling the city for help," said Baughman.

Helping people without a home takes a lot of resources. First, there's getting the word out. Then, there's picking people up and transporting them to the intake center. Lastly, there's getting them warm clothing and a warm meal.

Snitzer said The Stewpot and others are doing their best to reach people on the streets. They're using a text system where they contact people with cell phones who have previously registered with their organization.

“Right now what we really need is funding,” said Snitzer. “I mean we are putting money together to get these hotel rooms, and as well as staffing...because we have to have staff and security to keep everybody safe and getting people into rooms and getting food to persons staying at the hotel.”

According to a press release, the city of Dallas is supplying the funding to open the center with financial support from OurCalling and several other groups.

According to Baughman, centralizing in one location makes it easier to help more people and get them in a safe and warm shelter.

“Collaboration is what we have to do to make things better for our friends experiencing homelessness,” said Snitzer.

COVID-19 rapid testing will be administered to all individuals at the site. OurCalling, Salvation Army and The Stewpot will provide breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

The Convention Center will remain open as long as the below-freezing temperatures remain, and homeless individuals will be able to stay at the Convention Center day and night.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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