Homeless families, senior citizens amongst most vulnerable to winter-like conditions in the Borderland

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — In a day where El Paso saw freezing temperatures and snow, some people enjoyed a winter wonderland in the Borderland.

However, for some members in the community, these winter-like weather conditions can be a danger without proper preparations.

Grace Ortiz, chair of the Extreme Weather Task Force and the faith-based community engagement specialist for Adult Protective Services, said these conditions can be harmful to some of the most vulnerable such as senior citizens, young children and people with disabilities.

“There’s a lot of people who were unprepared for this little cold snap we are experiencing right now,” Ortiz said.

She added since El Paso just saw warm temperatures in the high 80s over the weekend, some people may not have set up their heaters in their homes.

“And then I have that handful of senior citizens who are just afraid to hire anyone they don’t know or they can’t afford it, so they were calling saying I don’t know what to do I know it’s going to be cold and I’m really fearful I’m not going to be able to be warm at home.”

Others at risk to the cold, families without a home, flooded local homeless shelters as the temperatures dropped overnight.

“We had an elderly gentleman that came in who just got too cold outside — he probably spent the evening outside, he couldn’t stop shivering,” John Martin, the director of the Opportunity Center, said.

The Opportunity Center, which has several locations, said it saw nearly 200 people seeking shelter at the location on Delta Drive. Martin said COVID-19 guidelines bring challenges as people looked for a place to stay warm.

“Prior to the creation of these two facilities I was lucky to keep individuals six inches apart because of large number of folks,” Martin said.

But he said partnerships with the City, County and other agencies make it possible to for them to get people inside.

“We won’t turn down people,” Martin said. “If I need to, the clothing room for example, I can pick up the clothes and put people in there if necessary I will put people in the hallway but we will maintain the CDC guidelines as it relates to social distancing,” Martin said.

Martin said the location on Delta Drive has space for families as well as individuals.

If the community would like to help, Martin discourages volunteers due to virus restrictions but he said donations are greatly welcomed, especially items such as bath towels or wheelchairs for people with disabilities and cold weather attire. He also said if people see anyone who may need shelter, they should call the non-emergency police number or the Opportunity Center at 915-577-0069.

The Extreme Weather Task Force urges the public to consider donating blankets to local fire stations as winter weather approaches.

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