Not everyone seeking shelter, despite SA's freezing temps

The Salvation Army saw smaller crowd than expected during coldest night

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio’s frigid weather has organizations such as The Salvation Army opening their doors wider than usual these days.

Brad Mayhar, public relations manager, said the organization saw a capacity crowd at its emergency shelters Tuesday night.

About 153 people, many of whom had nowhere else to go, spent the night there.

Mayhar said there was room for even more people. However, even though it was the coldest night of the week so far, there was no overflow crowd.

“Sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don’t,” he said. “It’s hard to explain.”

Mayhar said people can have a whole list of reasons why they don’t seek shelter indoors, even in extreme weather. He said substance abuse and mental health issues can cause some homeless people to shy away from facilities where there are rules.

Others might not want to leave their possessions or pets out in the cold while they go indoors.

“There might not be storage space in a shelter setting,” Mayhar said. “Unfortunately, we’re not able to accommodate pets in our shelter.”

KSAT 12 News spoke to a man named Robert near downtown who said he had braved the night when temperatures dipped into the low 20s outdoors. He said he piled on layers of clothing, then bunked down in a spot where he could shelter himself from the wind.

“I have, like, four or five blankets,” he said, pointing to a bundle in his wagon. “I have on four jackets, two sweaters, a shirt and six pairs of socks.”

Robert said he has spent the past four years living on the streets due to hard times. He said he chooses not to stay in shelters because he doesn’t like crowds of people.

Hearing about people like Robert concerns Mayhar greatly.

"When we see someone and we offer them the help and they turn it away, you know, you do fear the potential worst,” Mayhar said.

As of Wednesday morning, the San Antonio Fire Department had not received any calls for illnesses related to exposure to the cold weather, according to spokesman Woody Woodward.

In other cities, including Houston, there have been deaths associated with this recent cold snap.

In San Antonio, meanwhile, Robert seems to be taking it all in stride. He said he believes his days of living on the street may be numbered.

“A change is coming,” he said. “I just keep smiling.”

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