CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Freezing temperatures can be dangerous or even deadly for vulnerable populations exposed to the elements.
Because the Coastal Bend is expecting a dip in temperatures near the Christmas weekend, the Salvation Army is getting ready to take in more people in need at its main shelter at 1408 Bucher Street.
"Put yourself in a homeless individual's shoes. Could you bear it out in the freezing cold? With the winds? it's freezing cold. It's heartbreaking." said Kyle Kanutson, the Salvation Army's Social Services Director and President of Homeless Issues Partnership."
Several entities including the Salvation Army, the City of Corpus Christi, Neighborhood Services, H-E-B, the Red Cross, the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), and the Gulf Coast Humane Society are working together to protect unhoused individuals and get them the care they need.
The Salvation Army will house 100 more individuals than it does during its normal operations. The extra amount of people will stay at the Salvation Army's church building. People will be provided three meals a day, courtesy of H-E-B. From Thursday at 4 p.m. to Monday morning.
No one will have to leave the shelter so they can stay indoors during the cold weather.
RTA is helping by providing free rides to shelters. The Gulf Coast Humane Society is helping homeless individuals care for their pets.
Kanutson said there could be about 600 to 800 people experiencing homelessness in the Coastal Bend.
The number could include anybody that doesn't have their own sustainable housing. He said in the last year, 43 homeless individuals have died. Some deaths could be associated with the weather.
Local groups, like the Salvation Army, and the City are engaging in outreach efforts to notify residents that shelters will be open and available for people in need.
"There's what we call chronically homeless individuals who have been out in the streets so long, that's all they know. Those are the individuals that we are kinda looking for, those individuals that if we don't intervene, they could possibly die of the cold weather," said Kanutson.
KRIS 6 News crews also took to the streets to do some outreach.
Anchor/Reporter Michelle Lorenzo spoke with several individuals who did not want to go to a shelter because they did not want to run into any trouble.
Another man, who identified himself as Robert, told KRIS 6 News that he wasn't aware of his options and thought he'd have to sleep on the streets in the cold.
Once he was made aware of the help, he expressed gratitude.
"Out here, this is rough. Everybody can see that this is not the way we want to live. But it's the help from the people of God that really shine and bring Corpus and make it what it is." he said.
Robert said he became homeless after he returned from Iraq.
He suffers from mental health issues but hopes to have a better future. That's where the Salvation Army comes in.
Kanutson said that besides providing shelter during the holidays, they hope to offer people the gift of a new life.
"We'll be able to not only provide a warm place but also case management and let them know about programs and the resources that are out there. How to get identification, stuff like that," said the Social Services Director.
The Salvation Army is hoping generous donors will give during the gift-giving season and help the homeless population. It's looking to get donations of jackets, blankets, pillows, or sleeping bags.
These items will be given to people who choose to stray away from shelters, so they have the tools they need to stay warm.
If you'd like to donate you can drop off items at the Salvation Army's main location at 1408 Bucher Street.