The recluses and homeless people afraid to go downtown are a worry to Jesse Mercer. The face of one man stuck with Mercer, the assistant director of Jesus House, as he hurried around the rescue mission Wednesday in preparation for the coming storm. As Mercer stood in line at a Taco Bell, the man approached and asked if Mercer would help him. Mercer gave him one of his Jesus House cards. "If you come to Jesus House, we can help. It’s going to be too cold up under the bridge the next couple of days,” Mercer told the man. But the man said not to expect him at the shelter. He doesn’t go downtown, he explained. "I can’t make them,” Mercer said. "You can only help those that want to be helped.” He said there are plenty of others like the stranger but many of the homeless with mental illnesses will find their way to the shelter as the storm moves in. Jesus House, City Rescue Mission and Grace Rescue Mission are all steeled for waves of homeless people looking for warmth. They say they are committed to seeing that everyone who needs shelter or a meal will get it. "We don’t open the door and throw somebody out in the snow,” Mercer said. "My grandmother wouldn’t have liked it, my mother wouldn’t, and I don’t think the man upstairs would think too much of it.”
Jesus HouseMercer said he’s prepared for a storm like the Christmas Eve blizzard, when Jesus House ran out of mattresses and space for everyone to lie down. They gave blankets to the later arrivals and told them to go to the kitchen and lay their heads on the table. "That’s the best I could offer,” he said. "We had 265 people that night.”
City Rescue MissionCity Rescue Mission, which shelters 400 to 500 men, women and children each night, has 640 beds and another 250 mats to put down in a time of great need. "Our people usually wait until there is a crisis and then seek our services,” said Tom Jones, president and chief executive officer. "We certainly are prepared for what might happen, and then we’ll see what does happen.” As with the other emergency shelters in Oklahoma City, City Rescue Mission worked with the Homeless Alliance on plans to shelter the homeless as shelters fill up. He said they plan to open the Homeless Alliance warehouse for folks, if needed. The only other time Jones recalls that shelters had to use the warehouse for overflow crowds was in the 2007 ice storm.
Grace Rescue MissionGrace Rescue Mission in the stockyards area already was at capacity Wednesday afternoon with 110 to 120 people, said the director, the Rev. Scott Allen. "We are on divert status. We will divert them to other shelters” if more people show up, he said. The mission for men has shifted people around and is reserving cots for extra homeless men. Food and fuel for emergency generators are in place, he said.
Salvation ArmyThe Salvation Army Men’s and Family Shelter can house about 100 in the men’s lodge during emergency situations, spokeswoman Heide Brandes said. In the family and women’s lodge, cots can be used to accommodate people if rooms are not available. Brandes said Salvation Army kitchen staff is cooking meals in advance of the storm.
Red CrossKyla Rapp, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, said the agency has five shelters on standby in Oklahoma City and more at locations along the Turner Turnpike. The 12 American Red Cross chapters across the state each have multiple shelters on standby. "Hopefully, people will heed travel precautions and are preparing to shelter in place,” Rapp said. The Oklahoman’s Watchdog Team: Looking out for you. Visit NewsOK.com/watchdog.
• City Rescue Mission, 800 W California Ave. To find out more, go to www.cityrescue.org or call 232-2709.
• Jesus House, 1335 W Sheridan Ave. For more information, go to www.jesushouseokc.org or call 232-7164.
• Salvation Army, 311 SW 5, www.salvationarmyokcac.org or call 246-1100.
• Grace Rescue Mission, 2205 Exchange Ave. For more information, call 232-5756.
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