HAYS COUNTY, Texas — The Homeless Outreach Mitigation Emergency Center (HOME) works together with the unhoused community of Hays County. Its leaders said they need assistance from the public.
Hannah Durrace, program director for HOME, said that while they know of at least 170 people experiencing homelessness in the area, the number is likely much higher.
"We're seeing a rise in the number of individuals experiencing homelessness," Durrace said. "But at the same time, we're not seeing those supportive services increasing for that population."
Victoria Rhemann, a community activist and volunteer for HOME, said she wishes the City of San Marcos had shared resources and information for unhoused people a week prior to this week's freeze. She and Durrace spent Thursday evening getting people setting up camp outside a warm place to sleep.
"We literally walked under bridges. Like, we went into the woods, we looked for everyone that we knew, where they would be at," Rhemann said.
HOME uses monetary donations to transport people to the Southside Community Center homeless shelter, or to motel rooms. Some people went with Durrace and Rhemann for shelter, while others were too afraid to leave their belongings behind.
"I showed them on my app. I said look, five days. It's not one day, it's not just tonight. It's gonna stay cold, you know," Rhemann said.
Durrace told KVUE there aren't enough resources for people experiencing homelessness in Hays County, and it's why HOME is seeing a rise in people needing their assistance.
"I think one of the biggest issues that we have here is a lack of housing and a lack of [public] transportation," Durrace said.
According to Durrace, HOME has had more than 300 families seek assistance from the organization this year, many of them children.
HOME is in need of donations such as blankets, winter coats, socks, easy-to-microwave and non-perishable food. It is also seeking monetary donations to help with travel expenses to and from shelters for unhoused people, and motel rooms. The organization had been using COVID-19-related funding to fund its needs, but those funds are being discontinued.
Durrace and Rhemann said they will continue to bring people inside for their safety.
"If we can freeze for just a little bit...then it's nothing because these people freeze all day and night," Rhemann said.
To donate to HOME, click here.
To contact the Southside Community Center, click here.