TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Two weeks ago when the winter storm was coming, the Tyler community stepped up to help shelter and feed the homeless. It wasn’t just a week-long effort; the Tyler Street Team has been created to provide long-term help.
Callynth Finney is one of many volunteers who helped shelter and feed more than 170 people during the winter storm.
“This week, which was originally just meant to get people out of the cold so they wouldn’t die, it has now turned into something much greater,” Finney said.
The week before the storm, Finney said she was at PATH talking with people about creating a street team. As the sub-freezing temperatures came in, they sprang into action.
“I thought, ‘we have an opportunity here, we have an opportunity to help more than just this one week,’” Finney said. “So we have everybody in one place, how can we do this? I thought, maybe we can make some kind of sheet that they can fill out so we can find exactly what their needs are.”
After learning of their needs, they hope that the Tyler Street Team can help bring those experiencing homelessness closer to the broader community.
“The goal is to be able to bring those that are excluded from the community, whether it’s their own fault, whether it’s circumstances mixed with mental health, whatever. To bring them into the broader community as much as is possible,” said Robert Finney with the street team. “You do the best that you can to treat people as fully human and to give them as full an experience as they’re capable of having.”
One of the first steps volunteers are being asked to help with is getting these individuals state identification, birth certificates, social security cards, and other documents.
“Those are basic things that many people experiencing homelessness do not have and they can’t get to the next level, whether that’s just sleeping in a shelter, you have to have identification,” Finney said.
The week they sheltered the people in need, Finney said she stayed at the motel as well.
“We were living life alongside them every single day. We were without power for three days and you really got to experience each other in a way that we would not have otherwise had the opportunity,” she said.
Many of the people they sheltered helped with meal times, Finney said.
“The community volunteers would bring food at meal times and we would then package up enough food to bring to the other motels where we were sheltering other people, and one night that was completely on foot,” Finney said. “We couldn’t get cars out to do that, and so several of the homeless people carried food and we went on foot and walked to all of the hotels in the cold, in the snow, and delivered. They loved it, they held hands and we walked together, and they were so excited to have the opportunity to give. They had been receiving all week but they wanted to give, too.”
Finney hopes this grows into more than a handful of helpers.
“I am hoping it will be the whole Tyler community. That we will be a people that love our neighbor well, including our homeless neighbors.”
To learn more or become a part of the Tyler Street Team you can visit their Facebook group.