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Winter brings more challenges to East Texas homeless shelters

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 1:55 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2022 at 7:20 PM CST

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - As we enter the traditionally coldest part of the East Texas winter, homeless shelters prepare as best as they can to get more homeless and transient visitors out of the elements, and guard against the omicron variant.

The East Texas winter can turn quickly from mild to below freezing, and that traditionally means lots coming in out of the cold at the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission.

“Winter months and middle of summer are our heaviest times. Last year when it was forecast that we were going to have that weather, we did have several of our staff going out and trying to contact as many people that were out in camps as possible,” says mission director Brian Livingston.

While they try to get homeless and transient visitors out of the elements, they’re also taking strict precautions to guard against the omicron variant.

“It has added an additional layer of challenge. We’re still doing the temperature checks, still have space for quarantining folks if they test positive. The few cases we’ve experienced we’ve been able to get them quarantined,” Livingston says.

With cold, sometimes freezing temperatures at night and a chilling rain, the mission is prepared to go over capacity every night, and sleep people on the floors if they have to.

“It’s not uncommon at all to have people sleeping in the day room, on mats on the floor, wherever we can find a corner for them,” Livingston says.

Dead of winter traditionally brings more homeless and transient people in looking for a hot meal and a warm place to stay.

The mission is doing anything they can to protect the homeless from the elements, even if they can’t get them to come inside.

“Blankets, coats, warm clothing of any kind to stave off the cold and stay a little warm,” says Livingston.

Donations of blankets and warm clothing can be made at Hiway 80 Rescue Mission locations in Tyler and Longview.

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