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How to help and get help as the winter storm causes power outages across Texas

Bethany Fischer, right, rests her head on the shoulder of her husband Nic, while staying at a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston. The couple, who lost power at their home on Monday, are part of the more than 4 million people in Texas who still had no power a full day after historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state's power grid and causing widespread blackouts. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Millions of Texans are without power, heat and essential services during a winter storm that has led to freezing temperatures and hazardous road conditions throughout the state.

City officials, local outreach teams and other organizations are providing warming shelters and support for people seeking help. Many nonprofit organizations are also asking for donations so they can help people experiencing homelessness or those who are in need of support. Here’s a list of the resources being offered in cities across the state.

Statewide:

Texans who have power in their households need to reduce their energy usage as much as possible to reduce stress on the state’s power grid. You can reduce your electricity usage by turning down the thermostats below 68 degrees, unplugging lights and appliances, and avoiding use of large appliances like ovens and washing machines.

For people without power or heat, The National Weather Service encourages people to close blinds and curtains, close off rooms and stuff towels in the cracks under the door. Texans should also wear layers of warm and lightweight clothing and make sure to eat and drink to warm the body up.

State officials are strongly discouraging unnecessary travel due to the hazardous conditions on the roads caused by the snow and ice. If you are in need of power and are able to travel, the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s website includes a list of warming centers across the state.

Texans can find more details about community resources and warming centers in their area by calling 877-541-7905 or 211, the state’s free 24-hour helpline. Information about specific local resources, assistance and guidance can also likely be found on local city government websites and social media accounts.

Houston:

Lakewood Church, the Gallery Furniture store and multiple other warming shelters have opened in the area. Accommodations vary by shelter, but most have blankets and other supplies for people in the Houston area seeking warmth. The George R. Brown Convention Center opened as a warming center, but it is at full capacity and it is no longer accepting more people, according to KHOU.

Homeless outreach teams from the sheriff’s office, police department, and homeless outreach groups have worked to provide rides to the warming centers. Houston area residents can call the Harris County Sheriff's Office non-emergency line at 713-221-6000 or 311 for information about shelter or transportation.

The sheriff’s office Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) has been providing items like coats, blankets and tents to people experiencing homelessness who are not in a warming center. People can donate here to any of the organizations in The Way Home, a coalition of organizations working to prevent homelessness.

Austin:

Austin officials are encouraging individuals in need of shelter to go to the Palmer Event Center. Families should go to the Downtown Salvation Army Shelter. Officials have also opened three other shelters at Mendez Middle School, Northeast Early College High School and Del Valle High School. People with pets will not be turned away, and they will be accommodated through Animal Services, according to Austin Emergency Management.

CapMetro has suspended its regular services Tuesday, and the bus service anticipates that service will be impacted Wednesday as well. People who need transportation to a warming shelter can call 2-1-1, and they can call the cold weather shelter hotline at 512-305-ICEE for more information about warming shelters.

Various organizations in Austin are accepting donations to help people who need resources to help the homeless or those in need of resources. The Austin Area Urban League is organizing an emergency drive here, and Front Steps, a nonprofit which offers resources to the homeless, is asking for blanket donations here.

San Antonio:

At least seven shelters are open in San Antonio, including Haven for Hope, the city’s largest shelter, which is offering cold weather clothing and beds, according to San Antonio Report. A resource list created by the Christian Assistance Ministry with details about shelters in San Antonio and specifics about accommodations can be found here.

Ministries and outreach teams are also looking for volunteers who can safely access the shelters. Outreach teams from SAMMinistries, Haven for Hope, Corazon Ministries and other organizations have been working to transport people to shelter, according to the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless, or SARAH. SARAH is providing details about organizations seeking help on their Facebook page here.

The City of San Antonio’s homeless hotline, at 210-207-1799, is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The hotline will help people experiencing homeless find resources. If people need help outside of those hours, they can leave a voicemail or email homelessoutreach@sanantonio.gov.

DFW:

Dallas opened the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as a warming center, where people will be provided with a chair, table and light snacks. The center is not providing cots and it is not an overnight shelter, according to a press release. Dallas is also working to identify more city resources, like recreation centers and libraries, to be used as warming centers.

Multiple Dallas-area organizations, including The Salvation Army, OurCalling and The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center, are working to provide transportation to the convention center, food and tests for COVID-19, according to The Dallas Morning News. Donations can be made here to OurCalling, which manages the convention center.

Fort Worth has opened the Fort Worth Convention Center as an overnight shelter with cots. The city has also opened four warming centers from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, but they do not have snacks or cots available. People in Fort Worth can call the non-emergency line at 817-392-1234 for directions to one of the city’s warming centers and help seeking transportation. More details can be found here.

Check out these guides on how to get help:

Houston:

DFW:

San Antonio:

Austin:

El Paso:

RGV:

Panhandle:

West Texas:

What are we missing? Email us at community@texastribune.org.

Juan Pablo Garnham and Elvia Limón contributed to this report.

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