Cold weather ahead: Killeen changes warming center policies hoping to reach more people

These changes come after a continuous freeze hit Central Texas in February of 2022
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 5:22 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - After opening for five consecutive days back in February, Killeen’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has made some changes to how they operate their warming centers.

During that winter freeze, those who utilized the shelter told the city how thankful they were for the resource.

“During that timeframe we would open every single evening and one evening we hit 23 [people]. The other nights were below that,” said Peter Perez, Director of Killeen’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

With a peak of twenty-three visitors, the city investigated what they could change, giving the highest number of people the chance to get warm on those cold nights.

“We want to provide some consistency to our community members. So they knew when we would do something and at least the minimum level or service provided at that facility,” said Perez.

For the city, consistency starts with a plan of action.

For this reason, Killeen is the only municipality in the area that has a physical plan for opening warming shelters and centers.

Neighboring city Temple has organizations that run warming centers rather than the city itself.

These include The Salvation Army and Impact Church.

“That was probably the biggest issue was ensuring something was there for staff to rely on that they knew when to do it rather than guessing or trying to remember what they’d done in the past,” said Perez.

Now, the city takes both temperature and wind chill into account when deciding to open or not.

Between both, whichever reaches freezing point first will be reason enough to open the warming centers.

If you’re outside for longer periods of time it’s really going to make you feel much colder. So, temperature or wind chill. Whichever is lowest below that 32-degree level,” said Perez.

Also new is that these centers will open at 10 p.m. versus opening when temperatures hit freezing--sometimes at 3 a.m.--when people have already found a warm place to sleep for the night.