The Lubbock Police Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) is doubling their efforts now that temperatures are expected to dip below freezing. EverythingLubbock.com joined the HOT as team went out during the day on Wednesday for their daily patrol. Later Wednesday evening, they went out again to bring winter gear to those without a home.
The HOT team explained that they ramped their efforts up starting Monday, distributing heavy jackets, sleeping bags, hats, socks, scarves, hand warmers, and snacks all across Lubbock.
The HOT team was started in February, so this will be their first winter serving the homeless community in Lubbock. They explained that after two homeless people died from the cold last winter in Lubbock, their goal this year is to prevent any deaths due to the cold.
“As a community, anytime we loose somebody it hurts,” explained Officer Tony Chacon. “But for us we’ve built he relationship with these guys and girls, if something were to happen because of the weather, if we lose them because it, it’s kind of hard. We’re trying to do anything we can right now with providing them with warm weather gear so that doesn’t happen.”
The HOT team also has to put forth more effort in cold weather to find homeless people. Chacon explained that many people will hide behind buildings or in tight spaces to protect themselves from the wind.
“And unless you really know where to look, it’s kind of difficult to find them and see what they really need at that time,” he added.
Sophia Fallin, a resident at Carpenter’s Church explained that she sleeps outside at night, so the cold weather scares her. She gladly accepted a new jacket from the HOT team Wednesday.
“It’s very cold and to have the HOT team come and bring us what we need– the body warmers,the hand warmers– it’s a great thing,” she said.
The HOT team also tries to pair homeless individuals like Fallin with resources. The officers will notify residents on the streets of the resources available at Salvation Army, Grace Campus, and other organizations.
Officer Chacon believes that this outreach makes a big difference for the homeless community.
“You could walk outside right now and start loading up your stuff and not have your jacket on, but as soon as you get outside you realize, ‘I left my jacket inside, I should probably get it.’ Some of these people don’t have that option so when we give hem a jacket, a hat, it totally turns everything around for them, it gives them hope,” Chacon said.
Chacon added that most of the homeless individuals they meet sleep outdoors in the cold weather, so sleeping bags and blankets can be crucial in giving them a little more comfort.
The supplies the HOT team is donating this winter came from a donation drive in October which yielded over 120 sleeping bags and 400 coats. But that winter gear is in high demand, everywhere the officers went Wednesday they ran into people who needed these winter supplies.
Chacon said he worries that their team won’t have enough supplies to do what they want to do this winter. They are accepting donations, heavy coats and sleeping bags are especially needed.