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Ice, snow storm packs shelters in Oklahoma

FROM STAFF REPORTS Published: January 30, 2010
The wind howled and icicles hung Friday from the shield-shaped sign outside the Salvation Army’s Oklahoma City shelter.

A couple of stoop-shouldered men stood smoking cigarettes just outside the doorway, backs bowed against the blowing snow.

This storm wasn’t as bad as the blizzard that blew in just before Christmas, but it was plenty bad enough to make the streets miserable, the men inside the shelter agreed.

"It gets real cold,” declared Wendell Crosslen. "I dropped some tears, but they stopped right here,” he said, pointing to a place on his cheek about 2 inches below his eye.

Crosslen said he had been sleeping in a makeshift shelter on the streets ever since he was put out from the City Rescue Mission, but he came to the Salvation Army on Thursday night.

It was warm inside the Salvation Army’s day room, but Crosslen and most of the other two dozen or so men inside remained bundled up in several layers of clothing — clear signs that they viewed the shelter as temporary.

Richard Newman of Oklahoma City didn’t have on a heavy coat, but said that wasn’t because he didn’t want one.

"This is the only place I got to go,” he said. "Me and my wife split up, and she kicked me out. ... I’ve been homeless about a week.”

Newman said he came to the Salvation Army to get warm and get something to eat, but was frustrated because he arrived after lunch and the workers wouldn’t give him a sack lunch because they mistakenly thought he had been there for meal served at noon.

Michael Boyd said he came to the Salvation Army hoping workers there could help him work through some of his problems so he could get back together with his wife.

Janet Miller, residential services manager for the Salvation Army, said the organization normally has 44 at its men’s shelter, but had an additional 52 on cots Thursday night. She said the number was surprising, because only about 35 more men came in during the Christmas Eve blizzard.

The harshness of the December blizzard caught many of the men by surprise, she said, adding that one of the shelter’s residents got frostbite during the blizzard and now is in danger of losing his toes.

"I think that got the attention of some of these men, which may be why more came in this time,” she said. "We serve a lot of veterans here. It’s a terrible thing to have so many homeless veterans.”

Miller said the shelter is well stocked but could use additional blankets.

Staying warm
When Pat Mann pulled into her driveway Thursday afternoon and saw transformers explode, she knew it was going to be a long weekend.

Mann and more than 12,000 residents of Chickasha were without electricity and spent Thursday night bundled in blankets, trying to fight the cold.

To escape the below-freezing temperatures in her home on Friday, Mann went to the Grady County Fairgrounds to volunteer with the Salvation Army. She greeted new arrivals and offered them coffee and food.

"It’s a disaster because everyone is without power. I wanted to help the community,” Mann said.

Terry Pewitt, of Cement, and his four children decided to leave town Friday morning and drive until they found somewhere with power.

About 2½ hours later, they made it to the Grady County Fairgrounds.

"We’re going to stay here until the power comes on,” Pewitt said. "There’s no sense in going to a house without power.”

Officials at the fairgrounds said they will keep the site open as long as people are without electricity and brought in cots.

However, some may not be able to stay as long as they’d like.

Faye Barnett and her husband, Lloyd, of Rush Springs, brought their dog along because he helps control Lloyd’s asthma.

Pets aren’t allowed in the shelter, and if the dog has to go, so will they, Faye said.

"We’re staying here as long as they’ll let us.

Staff Writers Randy Ellis, Meredith Moriack, Sonya Colberg and Vallery Brown


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