City officials say warming centers need staffing & transportation help

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Meanwhile, others step up to open pop up shelters close to home

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin says they’re housing hundreds of people in warming centers across the city, but there are more who can’t get there.

The city is using Capital Metro buses for transportation, but they need more help.

“All these organizers right now are starting to collect food and set up beds and get ready,” Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, said Tuesday.

He’s teaming up with other groups, including the United Professional Organizers and Collective Campaigns, to open up a pop-up warming shelter at the association’s building at 7537 Cameron Road.

“Many residents in Austin have been without power for up to 30 hours now,” says Nicks, who has also been without power.

He noticed that many people in AFA’s neighborhood couldn’t get to a city warming center, so he wanted to bring a center closer to them.

“We have firefighters with four-wheel drives that are volunteering their time to help pick up people,” Nicks says.

The city says they’ve opened three more warming centers, but leaders are asking for more help.

“Transportation issues are paramount,” says Austin City Council member Gregario Casar.

Casar and Mayor Steve Adler are calling for volunteers to help drive people to warming centers and to help staff them, too.

“My district has so many people that don’t have cars, and with CapMetro down right now it is really worrisome,” he says outside the warming center at Northeast Early College High School, where Casar volunteered on Tuesday night.

“Folks with four-wheel drives that are able to move people around, that’s going to be an opportunity for you to volunteer those services, too,” Adler said during a city press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Nicks is hoping to get about 40 of his neighbors to his center.

“Try to fill a gap in the need,” he says.

Nicks says they are coordinating with city council member Natasha Harper-Madison to get cots and other supplies for the pop-up shelter. He also says folks can come by to donate goods.

You can sign up to volunteer at a city warming center or as a driver by filling out this form.

Casar says although the form lists 12-hour shifts, volunteers can indicate how many hours they are available, even if it is less.

Austin Emergency Management says for more information on cold weather shelters you can call the 24/7 hotline: (512) 305-4233.

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