Mayra Acevedo and her family had been out of power since early Monday at their apartment complex.
They finally hit their limit with the cold temperatures inside their apartment at Westheimer and Chimney Rock and on Tuesday morning headed to Lakewood Church’s warming center on Tuesday morning.ADVERTISING
“We had to take a shower in cold water yesterday,” saidAcevedo, 49.
“It was not fun,” Lluvia Campos, 13, her daughter added.
Acevedo’s family is among hundreds who have flocked to Lakewood since it opened Sunday as a warming center. At bedtime Monday night, around 214 people were inside the building, according to Matt Osteen, who serves as the church’s attorney and also oversees its relief efforts.
The church has seen as many as 300 people in and out of the building since it opened. These included homeless persons as well as families trying to escape the cold.
Staff members are screening people for COVID-19 symptoms, requiring masks and maintaining social distancing.
Lakewood’s pastor, Joel Osteen, faced sharp criticism during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 when he didn’t immediately offer shelter at his megachurch for displaced hurricane victims.
The church said it ultimately helped more than 1,150 Houston-area families rebuild homes destroyed by the storm, including donating more than $5 million in financial assistance, mobilizing 9,300 volunteers and distributing supplies.
Joel Osteen made an appearance Tuesday at the church, a 600,000-square-foot building that was once home to the NBA’s Houston Rockets.
“I believe we are blessed to be a blessing,” Osteen said. “God’s given us this beautiful facility, where we can help people for a simple thing, just to stay warm, have a place to stay.”
The pastor said the church will remain open during the bitter-cold snap for as long as needed.
“We won’t turn anybody away,” said Osteen.
He noted that the church had never before opened its doors to assist those seeking shelter from a winter storm.
“We never saw this one coming,” said Osteen. “You see the hurricanes and the others, but you just didn’t see it coming here.”
For Acevedo, the cold wasn’t just a physical inconvenience — it was financial. Acevedo, who works in the insurance industry, said she hadn’t been able to work from home due to a lack of power and Internet service.
Her husband, Jose Campos, is supposed to start a new job as a guard for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Darrington Unit in Rosharon on Wednesday, but he doesn’t know if he’ll make it given the weather forecast, which includes more precipitation overnight.
The couple said their finances are limited.
“We really want to go home and go to work,” said Mayra Acevedo.
The Whitfield family also braved cold temperatures since early Monday when their power went out at their apartment complex in Alief.
The family called Centerpoint Energy, their own electric company Frontier and 211.
No one could help them.
At home, they used candles, blankets and layered their clothes to keep warm. At one point, it was 51 degrees inside their apartment but it felt colder, the family said,
“You don’t want to find us in here, our bodies,” said Patricia Whitfield, 57.
Patricia was worried about her grandson, CJ. The 6-month-old, dressed in a Woody from Toy Story onesie, bounced on her lap.
Patricia, along with her 27-year-old daughter, Laneisha, and son, Patrick, 29, finally packed up their stuff, including their white cat, and headed to Lakewood at 3700 Southwest Freeway.
Besides Lakewood Church, other places around town also offered a helping hand to cold Houstonians.
Gallery Furniture opened up two warming centers at stores in Fort Bend and in Houston. The two stores are located at 6006 North Freeway and 7227 W Grand Pkwy S, Richmond, TX.
At the warming centers, people are asked to follow COVID-19 protocols.
River Pointe Church in Fort Bend also has opened a warming center, tweeted Fort Bend County Judge KP George. Those interested can contact 281-896-1846.
Dominic Mandola’s Ragin Cajun on Richmond was without electricity Monday, but when Mandola discovered power had been restored Tuesday morning, he decided to open at 2 p.m. “So many people need food,” he said.
Feb. 16 is also Fat Tuesday, he noted, a celebration Ragin Cajun enjoys marking. So on Tuesday, Mandola did everything he could to serve up crawfish, oysters and gumbo. Even in a historic freeze, there was a deep need to let the good times roll.
Interfaith Ministries’ Meals On Wheels, a program that delivers meals to home-bound seniors across the Houston area, said they had already dropped off shelf-stable meals that usually last for five days. The winter box meals, which are filled with non-perishable food items, were delivered to the seniors’ home back in January in preparation for an emergency.