Shelters open as residents brave year’s coldest readings

HARLINGEN — Shelters are bracing for families seeking refuge from the coldest temperatures of the winter season.

Loaves and Fishes homeless shelter is opening its doors as an emergency shelter as forecasters expected temperatures to drop to about 28 degrees this morning.

In the usually temperate Rio Grande Valley, many old homes lack central heating, the Rev. Bill Reagan, the shelter’s executive director, said yesterday.

“They shouldn’t be embarrassed to come in,” Reagan said. “In cold weather we let everybody in. We’re a homeless shelter but we’re also an emergency shelter.”

Where can you go?

In San Benito, the city was opening its Community Building as a shelter.

“I think it’s a great idea,” City Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez said. “It’s good for us to help the community and the less fortunate in this way.”

At Loaves and Fishes, 66 beds and 60 cots were ready to help families coming in from the cold, Reagan said.

“We think that might be sufficient,” Assistant City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez said.

The city also is warning residents about using space heaters to warm up their homes.

“The thing that concerns me the most is people who don’t have heat in their homes rely on space heaters and every time we get a cold snap a house burns down,” Reagan said.

Another location for help

At the Salvation Army, social worker Connie Rodriguez said many residents also use their kitchen ovens to heat up their homes while some place hot coals in buckets to try to warm up.

“It’s however they can keep their home warm,” she said. “It’s very dangerous.”

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army is handing out coats and blankets, Connie Rodriguez said.

“It’s been very, very busy,” she said. “It seems like more people are coming in. It’s been crazy weather.”

Many area residents lack coats thick enough to keep warm in freezing temperatures, she said.

“Most of them just come with windbreakers,” she said. “They want something thicker than what they have. We’ve been giving out coats, blankets and knit hats.”

In Harlingen yesterday, City Manager Dan Serna briefed his City Hall staff as residents faced freezing temperatures.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a wind-chill advisory, warning winds could make temperatures feel as low as 17 to 22 degrees today, Chris Birchfield, a meteorologist, said from the Brownsville station.

Birchfield said temperatures were expected to drop to 28 degrees between 5 and 6 a.m. today, marking the coldest readings of the year.

Today, temperatures were forecast to remain in the 30s, he said.

Open to help

Loaves and Fishes, 514 S. E St., Harlingen

Community Building, 210 E. Heywood St, San Benito

Salvation Army, 119 E. Monroe Ave., Harlingen