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Bitter Cold Has North Texas Shelter Exceeding Capacity

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ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) – As temperatures fall, demand at the Arlington Life Shelter rises.  The shelter is quickly running out of resources to meet demand.

As it stands, the shelter is exceeding its capacity of 85 people.

“We’re up to 115, 120 a night,” shelter executive director Becky Orander said.  “And the challenge is we’re the only homeless shelter outside the city of Fort Worth. That means everybody from Tarrant County is here, everybody from Arlington, [and] everybody from Mansfield.  And you just can’t turn anybody away. When it’s this cold it’s a life or death situation.”

Normally, the shelter is deserted in the middle of the day. Residents either have some type of job or are out looking for one.  Monday, as the temperatures dipped below 30 degrees on the flashing bank sign across the street, people huddled around televisions or in the shelter’s library.

People have claimed every bed in the shelter.  Some of the swell in demand comes from people without electricity in their house or apartment.  Many others are homeless and can no longer brave the cold.

After trying to sleep in the cold outside David Oas said he is grateful to sleep on the floor. “My bedding was right here and six inches away was all the sleet and snow that came down,” Oas said, recalling his outdoor living conditions.  “So, it makes a difference.  It really does!”

The overcrowding is having a dire effect on the shelter’s resources. They’ve already used the entire month’s payroll to pay staff overtime.

“I’ve gone through my payroll for all of February and we’re only in the second week of February,” Orander said.  “Because it’s just been so cold we’ve been open on emergency status.  We have double the staff, double the food, everything.

That “everything” includes items that many take for granted. Orander listed off the shortages aloud. “Toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex. The basics!”

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

The thought of the shelter having to turn people away frightens people like Mandy Rooker, who has no one else to turn to. “I don’t have family that can help me right now, so I’m grateful,” she said, as tears began streaming down her face.  “I’m sorry. I’m getting emotional.”

Rooker said the shelter is doing more than just giving people a place to lay their head down. “You could die out there.  This is saving lives.  This is saving lives and making a difference.”

The Arlington Life Shelter is hoping a surge in donations will let them keep making a difference until temperatures rise again.   Ideally, they’d prefer cash donations… since they’re providing food, shelter and clothing and could make adjustments in purchases to meet demand.

Click here for more information about giving a cash donation.

Some of the favorite shelter non-cash donations include – gift cards for department and grocery stores.

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