AUSTIN (KXAN)– It’s shaping up to be a cold Christmas week. Groups across Austin are bracing for three consecutive hard freezes.
“Most of our brothers and sisters that live unhoused or homeless, the tents won’t be able to withstand those winds,” said Quincy Dunlap, president and CEO of the Austin Area Urban League (AAUL).
The City of Austin has contracted with AAUL to take over cold weather shelters starting in the 2023-2024 winter season. This winter, the city said AAUL will support them in operations.
Dunlap said right now that includes making a list of volunteers to staff emergency shelters.
“Some of those are coming from some of the community-based partners that we already have worked with,” he said, like The Other Ones Foundation or Sunrise Community Church.
Dunlap said many of them are already trained through the Red Cross.
The city said its contract with AAUL is part of a plan to address challenges an audit found in Austin’s emergency temperature shelters: They were insufficiently staffed, with staff members inadequately trained, and lacked emergency resources like generators.
“A high degree of patience, tolerance, and understanding will be needed from both directions,” Dunlap said. “So, those serving and those being served.”
He said they’re working with other community-based organizations to efficiently operate the cold weather shelters.
“This is not just us operating in a vacuum, which is part of the problem of the past where the community or the bureaucracy would just have a specific way that they wanted to respond,” Dunlap explained. “We have taken it upon ourselves to collaborate across the board with different groups of stakeholders.”
That includes the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), now run by California-based Urban Alchemy.
Although they’re at capacity, the group plans to send out 150 meals per day.
“We are preparing to provide 150 meals to the homeless strategy division… for them to provide out to the cold weather shelters,” said Sarah Finley, ARCH coordination manager.
Dunlap said meals are one of the backside logistics that are most challenging during severe weather response.
He also said they are looking for more volunteers to add to their list.
“We have to be prepared to get out in an emergency scenario. So, when we call for volunteers, we need people to actually come and respond with us to get people transported and moved,” he said.
You can contact AAUL to volunteer here.