BARTLESVILLE, Okla. — As the temperature gets colder, concern rises for those who don't have a place to get warm. So, several Bartlesville community organizations are teaming up to help out.
The issue has been top of mind for a while for Kelley Becker, senior minister at Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville. Especially after last February’s winter storm. She was part of the group that came together to house people at the Westside Community Center.
“After we weathered that whole thing, we were like whew it’s over," Becker said. "The thing in the back of my mind was like, okay, it’s over now, but it’s going to be back again next year.”
Becker kept thinking about it into the fall when she met up with Lisa Cary, president and CEO of Bartlesville Regional United Way.
A conversation over coffee led to the creation of a new task force called “Home for the Night.” It’s a collaboration of community members and organizations including churches, nonprofits, mental health services, police and other city and county services.
“It’s us working together to come up with some solutions for those that are most vulnerable," Cary said.
Their short-term plan is to open a warming shelter at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Disciples Christian Church will also open for a limited number of people. The shelters will become available when the temperature is 15 degrees or below for 24 hours or longer. They’ll also provide things like blankets, hats and gloves.
The space at the fairgrounds allows more room for anyone who needs it and will let those seeking shelter bring their animals.
“It mattered to us because there are people that would stay out in dangerous cold because they wouldn’t leave their pet," Becker said.
Some raised concerns over the fairgrounds' proximity to Dewey Public Schools, but Cary said they plan on training volunteers who will be on-site the entire time the shelter is open.
“We’re really cognizant of making sure it’s a safe environment and have people that are volunteering at the warming center to be safe," Cary said.
The task force doesn't know how many people need help. It plans on doing a point-in-time count which will help find a long-term solution.
“It’s great to do this short-term stuff, but if we don’t tackle the long-term issues I think we’re doing a disservice to not only our community but to the community members who are struggling with this issue," Cary said.
Cary and Becker said they'll be ready to open the shelter the next time the temperature drops. In the meantime, they're giving blankets to Bartlesville Police officers to hand out to those who need them.
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