21 Mar Community Warming Stations Article in Kendall County Woman Magazine
For the past two years, Kendall County has faced major weather events which forced the community to shut down for a few days. We’re most familiar with the Texas “Snowvid” of 2021 when most of the state lost water and power. Most recently, the February 2022 ice storm closed businesses and schools for two days. Whether it’s the cold or a blistering 100-degree summer day, the most vulnerable in our community are always the most severely impacted. People without adequate heating or cooling in their homes or our homeless neighbors without a home at all should have a way to weather these storms.
For the past two years, The Patrick Heath Library, the Boerne Police Department and Hill Country Family Services have teamed up to establish a community warming station within the library during operating hours. Designed to provide vulnerable citizens with a safe place to go, warming (and cooling) stations decrease risks for individuals and families during extreme weather events, decrease isolation and promote community safety and wellness. The library’s warming station was set up with needed supplies including blankets, coats, gloves, snack bags, hot coffee and water, hot soup, and hand warmers. Police officers regularly checked in to identify unmet needs and to provide security. In February, approximately a dozen neighbors utilized the warming station while open from Thursday through Saturday.
While Boerne currently does not have a homeless shelter available during overnight hours, community and faith-based organizations work hard to find individuals overnight accommodations during extreme weather events, and 24-hour warming stations in San Antonio are made available for Kendall County residents. It is not a perfect solution, but it is the system in place while our community looks at the best way forward in assisting this underserved population and how to approach community buy-in and funding.
Building a plan for support services for our local homeless population and those living very close to the edge of homelessness requires an ongoing effort, not just during extreme weather events. It also requires a baseline survey so planners better understand our populations experiencing homelessness. To that end, we participate in Point in Time counts in conjunction with the Texas Homeless Network and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year’s count occurs February 24th and marks our county’s third year identifying and counting the number of unsheltered citizens in the community. In 2020, that snapshot count identified 27 individuals experiencing homelessness in our community. The information gathered helps provide resources for homeless neighbors and to identify where they are living. Multiple agencies are involved with the count each year including the Patrick Heath Library, the Kendall County Women’s Shelter, Hill Country Family Services, Boerne ISD and Transformation House.
To help with future warming stations or with the annual Point in Time Count, please contact either Staci Almager, CEO of Hill Country Family Services or Robin Stauber, Adult Librarian at the Patrick Heath Library.