Gillespie County residents gathered together and sought warmth in the emergency shelter set up in the Fredericksburg Elementary School, 1608 N. Adams St., this week.
Opened by the City of Fredericksburg, Gillespie County and the Fredericksburg Independent School District, the emergency shelter allowed a haven for those without electricity and heat in their homes.
City of Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation Director Andrea Schmidt said they opened the shelter Sunday morning, Feb. 14.
“The school district has been great to provide us all of this,” Schmidt said. “They’ve been cooking for us.”
Schmidt said the shelter could house a hundred until the end of the week but so far, 24 is the largest amount of people utilizing it at one time as of Tuesday, Feb. 16.
“We’ve got both gyms that we can open,” Schmidt said. “The school district has said they are willing to work with us if we need to open additional facilities.”
Many of those seeking shelter congregated in the school’s cafeteria filled with cots, blankets and sleeping bags, as well as a stack of board games.
“Most of them come from outside city limits because they don’t have power,” Schmidt said.
People from all over the county from Fredericksburg and Harper to the surrounding rural areas traveled to the elementary school in order to shelter in place.
Doris Evans sat on a cot facing her son, David Mann, and her grandson by the same name.
“We’ve been without water for days now and no electricity,” Mann said.
Mann said he and his family reserved a room in a local hotel, but when they arrived there, they realized they had been overbooked.
With all the motels booked, Mann and his family were sent to the emergency shelter.
Fredericksburg resident John Williams said the weather is the worst he has seen in his 81 years.
“I have seen two inches of snow on the ground and then after three or four days it would melt,” Williams said. “But never any of this.”
When Williams, who lives in Windmill Oaks, lost his electricity, he said some of his neighbors were able to use generators and stay home.
“If I’d stayed in my house now, I would be frozen to death by tomorrow,” Williams said.
Williams said people who spend time in the shelter might get used to having heat and think it was okay to go home.
“You get home and you and the cat are the only ones in there,” Williams said. “And now its 29 degrees or 28 degrees. You’re in trouble.”
Williams’s cat, Karma, was taken to the animal shelter when Sheriff Buddy Mills drove him to the emergency shelter.
“I wanted to keep her with me,” Williams said.
Even though Karma and Williams were separated for the time being, he imagined the emergency shelter would be very different if everyone brought their pets with them.