KILLEEN, TX — With Bell County under a freeze warning, homeless advocates say a warm place for those in need is essential to their livelihood.
Advocates say the homeless community faces many challenges year-round, but it gets even more challenging during the colder months, especially now during COVID-19 when space is sometimes limited in homeless shelters.
The Killeen Community Center will be open from 10 p.m. Monday to 10 a.m. Tuesday as a temporary warming shelter for those in need. One homeless woman in Killeen says although she now has a temporary home at a local shelter, she knows the bone chilling feeling of sleeping on the streets in the middle of winter.
“It’s harder to get warm than it is to get colder. You’re so cold, you’re so hungry and then you’re exhausted and trying to find somewhere to sleep. It was more difficult during those cold months than the warmer ones,” said Jane Doe, who did not want to share her real name.
One month turned to two, then two to seven. After spending 244 days sleeping on the streets between summer fall and winter, Doe says summer was much easier than the winter.
“Summer is different because you have more ability to move around. You're not wearing so many layers. You're not dragging around so many blankets and items with you. We struggled a lot it," she said.
“It’s cold out there, and it’s important that they have a place to go,” said Suzanne Armour, Director of Programs at Families in Crisis.
For the past few months, the Friends in Crisis homeless shelter has been helping Doe get on her feet. Armour says it's a key shelter, especially in the cold months.
“I can’t stress how difficult it can be for someone living on the street. The impact it has on their health, especially if it’s cold out there. Well, it’s critical that they have a nice, safe place where they can get away from the elements. Have a safe place to get something to eat to sleep for the night,” said Armour.
Although she has a warm place to lay her head for now, Doe knows it's not the same for everyone. The Killeen Community Center warming shelter, though temporary, could be a turning point in someone life.
“At the end of the day, everybody could use a helping hand. Everybody needs somebody to be there and feel that they’re supported and not be treated like we’re nonexistent and we don’t have our life together. Everyone needs a new chain and a new chapter and a fresh start,” said Doe.