East Texas Shelter Houses 200 People During Winter Storm

The director of the Highway 80 Rescue Mission sent staff out over the weekend to urge people to come inside, but says there’s no way of knowing if they got everyone.

By Michael Marks & Caroline CovingtonFebruary 17, 2021 2:21 pm,

People experiencing homelessness face grave danger from this week’s storm that’s brought bitterly cold temperatures to most parts of Texas.

Brian Livingston is executive director of Hiway 80 Rescue Mission serving Tyler and Longview in Northeast Texas. He told Texas Standard that the mission is housing about 200 people right now in facilities that still have power and water.

“It’s crowded, but it’s going pretty well,” he said.

Staff spent the weekend trying to find people and urge them to come to the shelter ahead of the storm. They had to stop once the storm set in because it was too dangerous to be outside.

“Obviously, we can’t force them, but we’re trying to make sure they knew about the dangers and and that they had a place to go,” Livingston said.

On top of the cold, Livingston has had to take precautions because of the pandemic. Staff is checking people’s temperatures when they enter the shelter, they’re practicing social distancing and they have a quarantine space for anyone who is sick.

He says the shelter has about two weeks of supplies and food if needed, though the storm and cold is expected to subside later this week. And local residents have helped get the shelter the supplies it needed, he says. They donated coats and blankets “within hours” of putting out the request to the community.

“We’re overloaded now,” Livingston said. “Really, the community has just responded every time we’ve had a need and it just put it out there. The response has been overwhelming.”

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