For the last couple of years, the Plano Overnight Warming Station has begun its season of providing cold-weather shelter to those who need it in either late October or early November.
The station, located at the Salvation Army’s Plano location at 3528 E. 14th St., opens Monday through Friday nights to give shelter to individuals and families when temperatures drop to 32 degrees or if they drop to 40 degrees with a 50% chance of precipitation.
In the wake of a February winter storm that strained local overnight warming stations and caused 200 deaths in the state--including two in Collin County and 20 in Dallas County, the Plano Overnight Warming Station is ready and waiting for what the forthcoming season will bring.
Salvation Army Lt. Michael Cain, who heads the Plano location with his wife Amanda, said while temperatures have gotten close to what would trigger the warming station’s opening, they haven’t yet dropped low enough.
“We’re prepared to go. We’re ready,” he said. “Whenever it gets down to the freezing temperatures, we’re good.”
While the station was previously used to handling a maximum of 85 people on cold nights, Cain said they saw 126 people in one day during the February storm.
“We never thought we could actually handle that, and I think it worked out pretty well, that our team was prepared and we handled it,” he said. “I think we were short on our supply, like we didn’t have enough cots, we didn’t have enough bedding, but now we’ve kind of beefed up our cot supply, our bedding supply, so if we do hit those numbers, everybody will have a cot.”
The station now has 135 cots, Cain said, and after a stint of losing volunteers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said a good number had come back.
However, he said, there’s still a need for gloves, socks and hats for both men and women. He said those who donate such items to the Salvation Army in Plano should mention that they’re for the overnight warming station.
“Gloves and socks go fast,” Cain said. “Socks are always a high need. But I know gloves, socks and hats, those go faster than anything.”
With potential cold nights on the horizon, Cain said he’s not sure if the need will be greater or lesser than in previous years, but he said the station is anticipating a greater need.
“But until we actually have a night, we don’t know,” he said. “But we are preparing that it is going to be worse due to people losing their jobs or losing their house, so we’re prepared for that. We hope that’s not the case, but that’s what we’re prepared for right now.”
Salvation Army Capt. Ben Godwin, who heads the Lewisville Corps with his wife Charlsie, said they are also preparing for nights when shelter may need to be provided.
The warming station opens from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. when the Lewisville mayor and city manager decide that winter temperatures or the wind chill will be at or below freezing for four or more hours, according to the organization website.
Godwin said they’ve already been in contact with the city to discuss what he calls the “Code Blue” protocol.
Godwin said this year, the corps’s location at 880 Fox Ave will be used for the overnight warming station, which will provide space for more people compared to the 206 W. Main St. location that has been used in previous seasons. Godwin said while the Main Street location could fit eight people, the Fox Avenue location could host well over 100 if needed, including separate rooms for families.
“We didn’t want to put that inconvenience on people who may be in desperate need of a place to stay for the night,” Godwin said.
Currently, the location has about 40 cots, he said.
He said the station would also provide a meal to visitors. He added that there would be a focus on COVID-19 safety protocols and on safety in general, which he said comes with the presence of local volunteers through FaithNet, a group of churches in the area including Lewisville, Flower Mound and Coppell.
Godwin said community members could support the effort by providing food for those staying at the station, such as hot dogs, buns and chips, as well as by reaching out to FaithNet to volunteer.
Charlsie Godwin said there is a need for cold-weather sleeping bags as well as socks and hats. She added that having bottled water is also helpful.