Tent city takes shape outside shuttered homeless shelter

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) A tent city is growing on the front lawn of the temporarily shuttered Friends in Crisis Shelter in Killeen.

(Photo by Chelsea Edwards)

The four-year-old shelter at 412 East Sprott St. in downtown Killeen, which closed its doors on May 18 while officials looked for additional sources of funding to cover the $1,000-a-day cost of operations, housed about 75 homeless residents.

The first tents began to appear earlier this month, but the population is growing as the temperature rises.

“They've already endured several nights in the rain in the storms we recently had,” said Mercedes Wesley, creator of the Facebook group Helping the Homeless.

“You're looking at health conditions declining. You're looking at the food that's actually being provided by some other entities that's going to go to waste in this heat.”

Residents have been dropping off food and toiletries to help out, but it’s only a temporary fix to a major problem.

"Both of my children looked at me and said, ‘mom we have stuff,’” said resident Donna Gibson, who was homeless herself at one time.

“I was like ‘OK, ‘you go get the tent, you go get the toiletries;’” she said.

"These are our neighbors. These are our friends, and we should help them," she said.

The closure of the shelter left those who relied on the facility with few options.

“I was sleeping on the ground next to a trash dumpster,” William Minor said.

"They got the key to the building,” he said.

“There's hundreds of beds back there, but we have to sleep out here."

Shelter director William Hall told the Central Texas Homeless Coalition Tuesday morning that $180,000 is needed to reopen the shelter.
He says so far, $70,000 has been raised.

Hall says he’s hoping for grant funding, but if it's awarded it won't come until Oct. 1.

Some who attended Tuesday’s meeting say they still are not sure why the shelter closed in the first place.

Hall says he’s working on a plan to prevent this from happening in the future.

He said the shelter's board has to make the final decision about when to reopen.