Homeless Shelters on Cold Weather Alert

Hundreds of people who sleep on the streets are looking for warm clothes and a place to stay. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, homeless shelters are on cold weather alert, trying to get people to come in off the streets.

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Charles Williams is standing by a van under the Pierce Elevated. He's handing out sandwiches, coffee, blankets and coats to a growing crowd of homeless people. Just a few minutes ago this spot was deserted. Now there's a crowd of about 25 people huddled around the van.

"And every year the weather drops, they don't need to be -- you know trying to get them out, try to get them something to eat, try to give them a cup of coffee -- things of that nature and try to do what we can to try to talk them in to coming in. Do the best we can to try to get them to come in to the mission."

Williams is the outreach coordinator for the Star of Hope. Before leaving the shelter, he loaded about 150 blankets into the van, along with about 50 coats. Byron Reese got word of the van and headed over to get a bite to eat something to cover up with. All he had to wear was khaki pants and a sweatshirt. Reese says he's just passing through Houston, trying to make his way home to relatives.

"To tell you true, I've been out for like two weeks now and everywhere I go is full, don't have no room. I've been trying. As a matter of fact, I just came from Salvation Army last night and they don't even have no room on the floor so I had to come back over here. This is the only place I know because I don't know the city that much."

Reese picked up a coat, but sounded doubtful that he'd find a place to sleep off the streets. Williams is busy pouring coffee and chatting with people walking up to the van. He says if he can convince some of them to come to the shelter, he'll help keep them safe overnight, but he might also help them find a new life.

"The average person that's out there, they've been out there for a while. You know some of them been out there because they have all kinds of situations going on in their life. What we going to try to do is try to make life better for them, try to let them know that God has an open heart for you and His hands are open to do anything we can for you and try to get you to come out of the weather. And possibly, you know, go through the programs and possibly one day you can look up and say -- look yourself in the mirror and say I have a job."

Most of the city's shelters expect to be at capacity through the weekend. The Star of Hope's three shelters and the Open Door Mission are putting mats and pallets out in their hallways and open floor space to accomodate the extra people. They're also in need of more coats and blankets to distribute. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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