The station received approval at a Sept. 14 council meeting to extend its capacity from 100 to 150 people each night, and operators may now choose to open when temperatures drop below 50 degrees. In previous seasons, it could only open when temperatures reached 40 degrees or below. Additionally, the inclement weather shelter is now able to open on any day of the year that temperatures drop below that level, rather than only between the nights of Nov. 1-March 31.
These changes are based on a study that hyperthermia may occur at higher temperatures when combined with rain and wind as well as on previous experiences at the Plano station, Salvation Army Lieutenant Michael Cain and city staff said during a presentation. By making these changes, more lives can be kept safe on dangerous nights, Cain said.
The shelter will also now be open on the night of the yearly point-in-time count, regardless of temperatures. Having the warming station open during this count, which identifies the number of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness, may help to get more accurate numbers, Cain said.
Over the past two years of providing overnight shelter, the Salvation Army's station in Plano has been open for close to 2,000 nights and has provided shelter to more than 350 individuals, according to Cain's presentation. The shelter has partnered with a number of organizations and more than 300 volunteers who assist in guests receiving a hot meal, showers, clean clothes and a place to stay for the night.
"That is 2,000 chances that ... we could have lost someone to cold weather," Cain said. "This is a lifesaving time."
These changes were approved unanimously by council members.