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Here's how you can help those in need when temperatures plummet

The pandemic has changed the way we can help our neighbors. But despite the extra work, people are still coming together to protect the community's most vulnerable.

HOUSTON — With the potential for freezing weather later in the week, many are hoping to Stand for Houston by donating gently-used coats and blankets. But as some people may have discovered, some traditional drop-off points or organizations just aren’t accepting donations this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was very heartbreaking because there are a lot of families out there who come to us. We usually have a coat drive,” Natalie Wood said. “There’s just no way for us to know who gave the blankets, who touched the blankets, and then to be able to hand the blankets out.”

Wood is the Senior Vice President of Programs for Catholic Charities Houston. In the past, Catholic Charities would host coat drives, collecting hundreds of coats of all sizes for families in need.

“It’s very heartbreaking. And all we can do is pray and pray that the people who are homeless start looking for shelters early,” she said.

Shelters are following strict rules in an attempt to keep people from contracting COVID-19. Because of social distancing measures, shelters are also operating at a smaller capacity.

“And then some places are making you quarantine for seven days before you enter the program, just to make sure you’re safe,” Harris County Sheriff’s Office Deputy James Kelley said.

He was one of the first deputies assigned to the county’s Homeless Outreach Team in October 2015.

Eleven HCSO deputies are now assigned to the outreach program. It connects Harris County’s homeless population with law enforcement.

“I’m out there bundled up with my gear on and I’m still freezing. First thing that pops in my head is, 'How can you do this?'” Kelley said.

Kelley checked to see if there are any locations that might be helpful donation drop-off points for residents looking to help others stay warm.

In an email, he wrote that the department is not equipped to accept donations at stations or the storefront in each district. What the Homeless Outreach Team does is accept items on behalf of the Hope Center and they clean the items and store them until they distribute them.

Grace Church Houston knew cold weather would come. Church members began collecting coats in January. They recently went out into downtown Houston to donate 271 coats to neighbors in need.

Church members are now collecting hygiene products to help homeless neighbors. You can donate to Grace Church by emailing: GraceLoves@MyGrace.com for more information.

Neighbors are using the Nextdoor social media platform to connect their donations with people who might find a use for them. That’s how KHOU 11 News Reporter Melissa Correa found Houstonian Rhonda Kelley.

Rhonda Kelley helps run Homefull, a nonprofit that helps the homeless community in west Houston. You can contact Kelley by calling or texting her at 832-380-4599. You can email her at Homefull2018@gmail.com.

“Please give them to us. We’ll get them out to the people,” Rhonda Kelley said of coats and blankets people might be willing to donate. “We have one family that has three children and a couple of dogs living in a van.”

Homefull works to help the homeless community near the intersection of Dairy Ashford and Westheimer. The organization has seen a growing number of homeless people in the area.

“They need blankets. They need sleeping bags. And we have all of those and we’ll be going out, before the cold weather hits, to pass those out,” Rhonda Kelley said.

Help is out there in this pandemic, we just need to get creative on where to look.

“And even if you’re not in someone’s area, they may go, 'I really need coats.' So I’ll drive across town to get those coats,” Rhonda Kelley said.

Click here to visit Homefull's Instagram page.

Click here to visit Homefull's Twitter page.

Click here to visit Homefull's Facebook page.

Here are links to wishlists for Homefull:

The Salvation Army is helping people ahead of the cold weather. Here’s what the organization shared with KHOU:

Is Salvation Army accepting/passing out coats and blankets? 

  • At this time we are not passing out coats and blankets, but continue to accept item donations at our Family Stores.

What are COVID protocols for Salvation Army shelters?

  • The Salvation Army of Houston is encouraging the practice of everyday preventive actions such as proper handwashing, wearing masks, proper sneeze/cough technique, social distancing.
    We have also increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces at all facilities.
    We continue to closely monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation and respond appropriately in order to effectively meet the needs of those we serve, and employees of our organization.

Does the Salvation Army offer any help with paying utility bills?

  • Yes, the Salvation Army is helping with limited emergency financial assistance. Please visit our website to get help and be connected if you qualify salvationarmyhouston.org.

How is the Salvation Army helping people who have food insecurities?

  • For the closest Community Care Center Call 713-752-0677.
    Food donations are being accepted at the following Community Center locations. They are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed at noon for lunch.
  • Conroe, 304 Avenue E, Conroe, TX 77301
  • Northwest, 12507 Windfern Rd, Houston, TX 77064
  • International, 7920 Cook Rd, Houston, TX 77072
  • Aldine Westfield, 2600 Aldine Westfield Rd, Houston, TX 77093
  • Temple, 4516 Irvington Blvd, Houston, TX 77009
  • East Harris County, 2732 Cherry Brook Ln, Pasadena, TX 77502

Food Distributions, first-come, first-served:

  • Conroe, 304 Avenue E, Conroe, TX 77301
    Monday through Friday from 9 am to 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Northwest, 12507 Windfern Rd, Houston, TX 77064
    Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • International, 7920 Cook Rd, Houston, TX 77072
    Every Thursday at 9 a.m.
  • East Harris County, 2732 Cherry Brook Ln, Pasadena, TX 77502
    Every other Monday at 1 p.m., the next one will be on Feb. 8