When Sub-Freezing Temps Threatened Dallas’ Unhoused Populations, Endeavors Was There To Help
Last Updated: 22 Feb 2022
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With forecasted temperatures well-below freezing, the City of Dallas called in a nonprofit they knew they could trust to help vulnerable residents.
Texas is known for sunny skies and warm temperatures, but the past several years have proven winter can still hit this region hard. In February 2022, Dallas hit below-freezing temperatures for several consecutive days—lows of 23, 21, and 19 degrees. And while the average Texan remained relatively unimpacted by the cold front (other than a bit of discomfort), more vulnerable populations were in grave danger of exposure.
According to the City of Dallas, more than 300,000 Dallas residents live below the poverty line, and the 2019 Point in Time Count reported over 3,700 individuals experiencing homelessness within city limits. Across city shelters, however, there are only 2,000 beds, leaving nearly half of the population experiencing homelessness unsheltered on the streets.
Nonetheless, the city strives to do everything it can to protect and uplift its vulnerable citizens. So when the weather forecasts came in looking dire, city officials contacted Endeavors to create a plan.
“We’ve been working with the city of Dallas since April of 2020, helping them provide staff support to their shelter operations that they’d been opening due to inclement weather and high Covid cases,” said Rapid Deployment Program Coordinator Claudia Guillen, who has helped lead shelter initiatives since Endeavors launched its Emergency Services programs in 2012. The Rapid Deployment team has helped the City of Dallas operate multiple emergency shelters for residents affected by hurricanes, winter weather, and Covid-19. When the city calls for help, we always answer.
The mission: Set up a 24-hour inclement weather shelter at the Dallas fairgrounds within two days.
A tall order, but Endeavors’ Emergency Services program maintains a roster of 1,600 reservist staff, which means we can deploy to assist with public health emergencies and natural disasters within 72 hours. By February 2nd, a full team of Endeavors reservists was on the ground, helping the city set up its 84,000 square foot shelter in time for the inclement weather to hit.
Endeavors reservists act as support staff for shelters like this, and they are there to help clients in any way they can. This means leading intake—processing and registering each client as they arrive at the shelter. It means personally escorting them to their assigned shelter space and ensuring their sleeping and hygiene supplies are ready. It means delivering and monitoring meals, ensuring the safety of everyone who walks through the door, and referring clients in need to onsite medical staff.
From start to finish, the reservist staff at Endeavors served 1,000 individuals seeking shelter from the biting cold.
As the Texas temps heated back up and the shelter prepared to dismantle, Endeavors and the city pooled their network resources to connect individuals at the shelter with other local agencies with housing availability for people experiencing homelessness. Even in the midst of immediate short-term disaster relief, Endeavors is always looking to provide a long-term solution.
And assisting people in crisis isn’t only about physical needs. Endeavors’ Emergency Services approach is founded on a comprehensive and individualized approach to disaster relief. Guillen emphasized that demonstrating palpable compassion is just as important, and Endeavors reservists make a conscious effort to personally converse with clients to make them feel as comfortable and safe as possible, letting them know there’s somebody there who cares.
“A lot of our reservists have been with us since 2012,” she said, “and they know that our mission is to provide for vulnerable populations…It’s about giving back to the community in some way, giving to those vulnerable populations who aren’t able to care for themselves in these types of situations. That’s when the community steps up and we work as a team to make sure they have a warm and safe place to go to.”
At Endeavors, we’re tremendously grateful for the compassionate dedication of our reservists. Though compensated for their time and work with us, many of our reservists have full-time or part-time careers, taking time out of their lives to aid their community with us. We are also lucky to have students and retirees on our team with a strong passion for helping others. “When you’re out in the field,” Guillen says, “you see the impact you’re making on the clients, and [our reservists] enjoy that.” They are the heart and soul of our client-facing operations, the voices that speak kindness to often overlooked and underserved individuals, the hands that plant the seeds of change.
Headquartered in San Antonio, Endeavors is a national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, natural disaster victims, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services and Emergency Services/Disaster Response.