East Texas braces for winter, more homeless people in need of help

Hiway 80 Rescue Mission, cooler temperatures

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - The first day of winter is Monday, and it can be a very busy time for East Texas homeless shelters.

In particular, with COVID-19 protocols in place, it’s a difficult task to care for everyone in need and keep a safe facility.

As the cold rains and temperatures begin, the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission in Longview is bracing for more people coming in.

“A lot of the people, they know the drill; they know it’s inclement weather,” said Brian Livingston, the mission’s director. “They come in as they are. We’re going to give them shelter, give them food, and help them out. When it gets wet, when it gets cold, they’re going to come in.”

Freezing overnight temperatures can be life-threatening to those who are homeless, and the shelters policy has always been that they will never turn anyone away.

However, turning no one away comes with a risk in the form of the possible spread of COVID-19.

So coming to the mission comes with a new set of rules, particularly eating at close quarters with 600 meals served a day.

“We don’t pack them in quite as tight. We have adjusted the way we do seating at meals,” Livingston said. “We’re only seating 50 percent capacity in the lunchroom, so if we have to eat in shifts, we have to eat in shifts.”

Essential for the homeless is providing hot meals and warm clothing, which means close-quarters socializing.

The mission’s annual family Christmas dinner and toy giveaway to needy families was adjusted to a drive-through only.

“Between here and Tyler, we have 500 families I believe it is, and about 800 children that we’re going to be providing gifts for,” Livingston said.

But COVID or no COVID, they will not deny the needy.

“If it’s a life-threatening situation, we’ll let you sleep here to save a life,” Livingston said.

Donations of food and warm clothing are always needed at the Hiway 80 Rescue Missions in Tyler and Longview.

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