An Oklahoma City shelter and service operation for the homeless is expanding their bed capacity through Tuesday night in response to an ice storm.
“We'll be open again tonight even if we don't have power,” said Dan Straughan, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance.
The organization is turning its Day Shelter, which is normally open for meals, haircuts, and other services, into an overnight sanctuary for the city’s homeless. The shelter holds 75 beds and opened for the first time overnight on Sunday and will be open Monday and Tuesday nights as well.
The Day Shelter has never been used for overnights since it opened nearly 10 years ago, Straughan said.
“Our usual program for winter weather is, the shelters go into what we call overflow capacity, where they just bring a bunch of people in,” Straughan said. “We can’t do that in a pandemic. It’s too crowded.”
Hundreds of beds instantly became unavailable across the city as shelters adjusted to health advisories for COVID-19. Roughly 600 beds are not available to the homeless to allow for social distancing, Straughan said.
The Day Shelter was one of thousands of buildings to lose power Monday afternoon. The lights went off around 1 p.m., right after lunch giveaways.
“Not much to be done except go ahead and bring people in so they’re out of the rain and the wind,” Straughan said. “We’ll be able to retain some heat, and just hope for the best.”
About 30 people stayed at the Day Shelter on its first overnight. Straughan said they expect more on Monday and Tuesday.
One visitor of the Day Shelter, Aliciann Devan, said she was grateful to find a shelter that welcomed both her and her dog.
“If you’re a family that has a dog, there’s nothing out there. There’s nothing. Me being here right now with this dog is a blessing,” she said.