‘I was frozen on a sidewalk’: People experiencing homelessness taking refuge at shelters

SAN ANTONIO – Living outside in the elements can be tough, but people experiencing homelessness say frigid temperatures can be deadly.

“I was frozen on a sidewalk and they stole my shoes. I could have died. They took me to the hospital,” Adan Perez said.

Perez had hypothermia, and while he was treated, members of Corazon Ministries’ outreach team waited, and then took him to the Corazon-led day center at Grace Lutheran Church downtown on Avenue E.

The Corazon Day Center typically serves up to 150 people in a day, but by Monday afternoon freezing temperatures have already led about 230 unsheltered people to the center.

In the big room, the lights were dimmed, and a movie was playing on a big screen. People sat at tables resting, eating a hot meal, and getting warm clothes.

With two more frigid days to come, Corazon Ministries President and CEO Erika Borrego said they’re ready.

“Luckily, we work really closely with the other homeless response partners in the city. We’ve been talking about this for a couple of weeks,” she said.

The day shelter is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then the clients head to different overnight shelters.

The Corazon overnight shelter is at Travis Park Church around the corner. It’s the largest shelter that received overflow clients when Haven for Hope fills up.

There are also churches and facilities that have opened their doors across Bexar County, acting strictly as overnight shelters. Outreach teams load up clients and take them to different shelters in the city.

The doors for the overnight shelters typically open at 7 p.m.

Perez plans to stay at the overnight shelters for the next few nights.

“This place is wonderful. Who could help this many people? I mean, clothes and food and everything else. It’s amazing,” Perez said.

Forever grateful, Perez hopes anyone else still braving the cold will allow these volunteers to help.

He knows first hand it could save their lives.

As hundreds of people recover at the warm shelters, the outreach team is combing the city and county for people still out in the cold.

“Every once in a while, there’s a couple folks that don’t want to make their way in. What happens is we take food to them, we take blankets to them, and we check on them,” Borrego said.

Borrego said on a normal day, in partnership with Christian Assistance Ministry (CAM), the day center offers many services. They include case management, ID recovery, showers, treatment for substance use and or mental health issues.

“So, that’s a normal day. Obviously today is a little bit abnormal in that we’re welcoming everybody in to get them out of the cold. So today we’re just keeping people warm and keeping them fed and comfortable,” Borrego said.

She hopes clients who are sheltering from the weather this week will come back to receive the full spectrum of services.

Right now, Borrego said the winter weather operation has 40 to 50 volunteers helping, but that’s the bare minimum.

She is hoping more people will want to help over the next couple days, especially overnight and in the morning.

If you want to help, head to the Corazon Ministries website and sign up to volunteer.

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