For the homeless around New Braunfels, finding shelter can be difficult. While New Braunfels has had inclement weather shelters pop up in the last few years, nothing has been a bit more secure — until now.
The Comal County Homeless Coalition, in partnership with the McKenna Foundation and Connections, has created the city’s first 60-day shelter, open from 5:30 p.m. in the evening to 7:30 a.m. in the morning.
The shelter allows the homeless in Comal County to have a safe, warm place to sleep during the winter months, while also providing a dinner, showering facilities, bathrooms and a grab-and-go breakfast.
“We’ve been up and running two weeks now,” said Alice Jewell, CEO of the McKenna Foundation. “We have between eight to 15 people here per night. It’s been great to provide our homeless some respite from the winter weather.”
During the day, the shelter also helps provide mental health services and assists those seeking solutions, Jewell said.
“The Hill Country Mental Health center has been a very involved, they’ve been so helpful,” said Kelly Stallings, executive director for Connections. “We hire law enforcement officials to be here while the shelter is open, and this property is part-owned by the New Braunfels Housing Authority.
Located just behind the New Braunfels Food Bank, the shelter has a men’s sleeping area, women’s sleeping area and an area for pet owners to stay with their animals.
“I want to keep moving forward. I’ve been moving forward and I don’t want to go back,” one guest told Jewell Friday morning as her little black dog sniffed around her owner’s ankles.
“You’re doing great, you’ve made great progress,” Jewell responded warmly.
With no permanent shelter existing in New Braunfels, it’s been difficult to guage how serious the problem is in Comal County, as well as to figure out what the main cause of homelessness is in the area, said Brittany Wilber, shelter coordinator and manager.
“This gave us a good glimpse of the issues here,” Stallings added.
She said those issues stem primarily from mental health needs and breaking the cycle of addiction.
“We see a lot of people who have mental health issues and sometimes they’ve turned to alcohol abuse or drugs to cope with the bad thoughts,” Wilber said.
A full-time shelter in New Braunfels is still desperately needed, Stallings said.
“We have some great organizations here who have been fundamental to getting this 60-day shelter running,” Stallings said. “The Salvation Army and Food Bank have been amazing — the Food Bank has allowed us to purchase food for dinners here at a great price, so we provide those Monday through Friday and then volunteers bring in a dinner on the weekends.”
Many folks are in search of a full-time local shelter to help them with the basics, Wilber added.
“We have been able to help them with smaller skills like using a computer or applying for an ID in the time they’ve been here,” Wilber said.
The 60-day shelter, which opened on Dec. 28 and which will run through Feb. 25, is in need of overnight volunteers — especially those with any experience working with the homeless, Stallings said.
“Anyone wanting to know how to help can call us at Connections at (830) 629-6571,” Stallings said.
The new 60-day shelter is at 109 Rosa Parks Drive.