Homeless shelter extends welcoming hours during cold weather days

WACO, Texas (KWTX) Fred Mershon who has been homeless for the past four months says it's not healthy to be out on the streets when the temperature drops like it did in the days following Christmas.

Photo By: Randy Davis

"It's very uncomfortable," he says, “just plain cold and wet- just makes you sick.”

He is waiting for the doors to open at My Brothers Keeper Homeless Shelter on Mary St.

The co-ed shelter usually requires pre-registration earlier in the day at the Meyer Center, which is about three blocks away. Then, guests have to check into the shelter by 6:30 p.m.

However, with the extreme cold and on days when the Meyer Center closes early, both registration and check-in will be allowed at My Brothers Keeper until 10 p.m.

Those who help manage the shelter say they want to spread the word that their doors are open for the homeless who know the discomfort of being out in the cold all too well.

"We just want everyone to have that extra invitation to come on in out of the camp areas in different places that they are," says Kathy Wise of Mission Waco.

"They'll have a place to be safe and warm."

The $2 and $5 nightly fees that are incurred after longer stays are also being waived on days when outside temperatures drop below 35 degrees.

Staff are also planning to pull out extra mattresses in case all 56 beds are occupied.

By sharing warmth with the homeless, Mission Waco hopes to offer them even more through their medical services and jobs programs.

"We can build relationships with folks and re-engage them with hope," says Wise.

She says the long-term goal of the shelter is to help people look past old wounds, hurts and failures and move forward in life.

"We want folks to see the gifts and skills God has placed in them."

That's something Fred has already experienced during his time here.

He sets a prepared outfit with a blue collar shirt and clean black shoes on the front desk.

With pride he tells us about his new start in the fast food industry.

"I found a job," he says. "I start tomorrow."

Anyone who wants to check-in at My Brothers Keeper has to bring some form of picture identification to pre-register.

The shelter also closes in the early morning hours, so guests will be on their own until the doors reopen at 6:30 in the evening.

Fred says in spite of the time he has to spend outside during the day, he's grateful for the shelter staff who are helping him survive these cold conditions in more ways than one- by living the words that open these doors for those in need.

"Am I my brother's keeper?" he asks, in front of the large sign with the name of the shelter inspired by the Bible verse.

As if replying for the men and women who continue to help him on frigid days like these, he offers his own reply.

"Yes, you are."