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Austin outreach groups helping homeless stay warm, fed amid freezing temperatures

Local organizations are doing what they can to help the homeless in the community as freezing temperatures stick around the area.

AUSTIN, Texas — Travis County and the City of Austin have declared local disasters to help free up resources to deal with this week's ice storm.

As the area is set to experience another freezing cold night, local outreach groups are doing what they can to help the homeless in the community.

"Hey, neighbors. Go on, take what you want," Yasmine Smith said as she passed out waters, snacks and warming supplies to people in southeast Austin.

In freezing temperatures, people like Smith are trying to help keep others warm and fed. Smith works with the Austin Area Urban League. It's one of several organizations working to help those who are unhoused, especially when the cold becomes unbearable. 

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"The first thing is building that trust, that's one barrier we see to actually being able to get them to shelters. The second thing is they don't think it's going to be that cold or they think they can ride it out," Smith said. 

The organization is working to break those barriers.

"If I set up a warming tent right here, would y'all go into the warming tent?" Smith asked and some responded "Yes, ma'am. I will."

"We take a 40-by-20 tent with heaters in there, like something you'd see on a patio at your favorite restaurant, food supplies and everything just so that they can be comfortable," Smith said.

Oher organizations are helping as well. The Other Ones Foundation runs the homeless camp off of SH 71 in southeast Austin. On Thursday night, they sheltered 120 people and expect that need to grow in the coming days.

"When you're warm and you're cozy, you just realize that there's somebody probably less than a mile radius from you freezing, hurting, suffering," Smith said. "And it could be as simple as going out and giving them a blanket."  

Smith said it's everyone's responsibility to have empathy and take care of our neighbors.

"We're really just kind of finding gaps and with empathy and love and care and attention, the coalition is addressing those needs," Smith said. 

For more on the Austin Area Urban League, click here.

Other organizations that help the homeless include:

Austin Justice Coalition, Austin Mutual Aid, Central Texas Allied Health Institute, Community Resilience Trust, Gladiator Consulting, Go Austin Vamos Austin, Good Works Austin, Little Herds, Little Pedal Alliance, Maximizing Pope, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Our Shared Kitchen, Runner City, Southwest Key, The Other Ones Foundation, Walking by Faith and We Can Now

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