Homeless warming center open during cold spell

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

March 3, 2014 at 2:01 p.m.
Updated March 2, 2014 at 9:03 p.m.

With Victoria's temperatures dipping into the low 30s Monday night, Rushing Wind Biker Church stepped up to keep people warm.

The church hosted a warming center at 1401 N. Wheeler St. for the second night in a row.

It is open to anyone who is on foot, homeless or in need of a space to get out of the cold, said Kim Raley Pickens, president of the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition.

Pickens said the center has cots set up so people can sleep there for the night.

Brother Mike Swearingen, who leads the biker church, said the congregation felt called to serve.

"We get out and ride our bikes - we know we'll sometimes get wet, and we'll sometimes get cold, but we don't like being wet and cold, and we know that others don't like being that way," Swearingen said.

The church, which is affiliated with Bikers for Christ, moved from North Ben Jordan Street to a building across from DeTar Hospital Navarro in an effort to reach out to more people and provide shelter in a time of need and distribute food to the hungry.

"Inherently as bikers, we do more work for charity and special needs than the government ever imagined," Swearingen said. "It's our community, too, so consequently, we said, 'Hey, we've got a large space here.'"

Swearingen said the church will remain open until the cold passes.

"People can sleep there through the night," he said. "It's not fancy, but it's dry, and it's warm."

More cold weather is heading to Victoria on Thursday and Saturday night, said Alina Nieves, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi.

Tuesday brings a 50 percent chance of rain, and if temperatures drop below freezing, there could be sleet. The high will be about 45 degrees, she said.

This won't be the last of the cold for the season, Nieves said.

"We're expecting another front Saturday," she said. "We're not seeing it as strong as this one, but that could change."

Victoria's coldest day for March 4 was in 2002 at 21 degrees, the warmest in 1925 with temperatures reaching 89 degrees, Nieves said.

While the cold lingers, Pickens said anyone who wants to contribute to the warming center can bring fruit, granola bars or other healthy snacks and blankets.

The church opened its doors Sunday to keep people warm, which three people took advantage of, Pickens said.

The turnout Monday night could see a big increase because volunteers have had more time to spread the word.

Pickens said she hopes to organize a rotation of churches and businesses to serve as warming centers for next winter.

"We'd like to branch out and let other people know that it's not a big deal to help," she said. "Mostly, it's hanging out, talking to people and hearing their stories."

Anyone interested in participating can contact Pickens via email at EndPovertyVAHC@gmail.com.



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