More than 230 people packed into an old Oklahoma City school building in Oklahoma City Monday night between two treacherous winter storms.
The Willard Winter Shelter housed at least 231 people for the night, according to Homeless Alliance Executive Director Dan Straughan. The nonprofit brought in extra cots to expand the shelter’s capacity from 220 to 245. About 180 people stayed on Sunday night.
Straughan said social distancing is nearly impossible in the building, especially when shared food is given out. A mask requirement is strictly enforced, he said.
The second round of snow is expected Tuesday and Wednesday. Straughan said they are prepared to open their Day Shelter for overnight stays if the Willard shelter fills up.
“This is a community disaster and it's going to take a community to get past it,” Straughan said. “Another round of six, eight, 10 inches of snow is going to make it really challenging.”
The Willard shelter is a temporary shelter made possible by a partnership between the Homeless Alliance, the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma, and the City of Oklahoma City. City buses are giving free rides to the Day and Willard shelters.
“As Oklahomans we're family. It's what family does,” said Marc Johnson, the lead pastor at Crossroads Church.
The church opened a section of its building at 8901 S. Shields Boulevard in southeast Oklahoma City as a warming shelter. It will be open at all hours of the day, seven days a week.
Johnson said they want to help larger shelters that are filling up in the cold weather.
“If we can take a small load off their shoulders then we’re happy to do it. We just want to do our part,” he said.