SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - As temperatures drop to or near freezing conditions, those out in the elements are the first to feel the effects. That includes the local homeless population.
In Shreveport, the Rescue Mission and Salvation Army are starting preparations for what’s expected to be a steady increase in people coming to the shelters.
Both shelters are expecting to be at capacity during the inclement weather, and are preparing to make even more space available.
At the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission they have already seen a spike in people needing to get out of the cold, and that’s only expected to increase as the mercury keeps dropping lower and lower in the coming days.
They are far from alone, with the Salvation Army homeless shelter also facing those very same challenges.
That’s why both facilities have spent the better part of two days planning and preparing before the worst of the wintry weather gets here early next week.
In fact, sleeping cots were coming out of the box and into various positions inside Salvation Army headquarters off Stoner Avenue in Shreveport during KSLA’s visit on Thursday morning.
Lt. Jamaal Ellis with the Salvation Army described their current situation.
“Our standing beds were already full prior to the cold weather because of COVID and social distancing. We can’t hold as many as we used to. But we’ve put out the additional cots and just spaced them out six feet wherever there’s space. And as long as you’re not blocking an exit. We want to make sure we are occupying and utilizing all of the space we have available.”
Lt. Ellis says they also know some of the homeless will not come to this facility. The Salvation Army deployed its mobile feeding canteen truck to the western outskirts of downtown Shreveport to reach them.
Ellis says they served nearly a hundred hot meals hours before their shelter would open, a few miles south.
“There’s just some people that aren’t going to come into a facility and we understand that. So, as the Salvation Army we still want to go out and meet them where they are, make sure that they’re needs are met as much as we’re able to.”
It’s much the same story downtown at the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission. Executive Director Pastor Larry Otwell says they’ve already got their sleeping cots out and are ready, regardless of how many people may come in from the cold.
“As far as capacity-wise and things like that, we don’t turn people away, you know what I mean. There’s, we’ve still got areas where we can put people.”
Despite the dangerously cold conditions expected early next week, some homeless people say they have no plans to leave the streets.
Then there are those COVID-19 complications, turning something as seemingly simple as allowing someone inside the shelter into a far more complicated matter.
Pastor Otwell gives one example, that just happened overnight.
“Three o’clock this morning we had a young man show up soaking, freezing to death, you know what I mean? We was able to get him into some warm clothes, get him in our quarantine foyer area, you know what I mean? And today he got a rapid test and able to move him in. But, you know, we just got to act quick because we don’t want nobody to die from hypothermia.”
Otwell says they will never turn someone away; they will make the room. Lt. Ellis says the Salvation Army will also do all they can to keep people warm.