Christians in Texas battle power outages, cold as they work to keep neighbors warm
Texans were powerless against a winter storm that blasted all…
OKLAHOMA CITY — When the weather forecast called for two major snowstorms and multiple nights with below-zero temperatures, Delisa Herbert knew she couldn’t just stay inside.
“When the weather started changing, I was like, ‘There is no way they are going to make it,’” Herbert said.
“They” are the homeless who live around downtown Oklahoma City.
Helping others is the focus of Herbert’s life. Every day at Second Chances, she provides food and clothing to homeless people, recovering addicts and those who have just gotten out of prison.
She’s overcome her own trials.
Before she was a Christian, she had experienced many of the same life circumstances as those she now helps. The hope she’s found through Christ radiates throughout her life and drives her to help others.
“She’s doing what people of faith should be doing.”
It’s what drove her to step out into the cold determined to help others find warmth. It started with a plan to buy tents for those sleeping outdoors.
“Last Monday, when I went to work, I said, ‘Hey, y’all, it’s going to be extremely cold. It will take $84 to get a tent, a sleeping bag, socks, gloves and hand warmers,’” Herbert said. Members of her church and other organizations all stepped up to help.
That help quickly escalated from tents and sleeping bags to hotel rooms.
Herbert worked out a deal with three nearby hotels. For $300, she could house two people for one week and keep them out of the record-breaking cold.
She and her fiancé drove around, picking up some members of the homeless community.
“A lot of them are people we’ve been helping,” Herbert said. “Some of them were found at camps.”
One had been living under an overpass. Another man told them he had spent the previous night in a box. They saw him walking across a parking lot and asked if he wanted help.
“We said, ‘Hey, can we help you?’” Herbert said. “He got in the van and kept saying, ‘Thank you for warm stuff. Thank you, Jesus, for the box that kept me warm last night. And thank you, Jesus, for putting me here so I could meet you.’”
As he thanked them, Herbert’s fiance knelt at his feet, removing his old, dirty socks and putting new, warm socks on his feet.
More than 60 people, and a few pets, were taken off of the streets by Herbert and put into area hotels. She checked on them daily, brought food and made sure other immediate needs were met.
Luke and Kate Hartman have seen the work Herbert has done for the last several years. So when they saw her post on social media about this need, they reached out and asked what they could do to help.
“She said dinner would be helpful,” Kate said. “So she told us what to get, and we brought it to them.”
Fourteen pizzas, a few packages of Oreos and a few two-liters of soda — as the couple delivered, Herbert stayed busy letting everyone know food had arrived.
“The neat thing was to see the way she interacted with the people she was helping,” Luke said.
She knew them all by name. She prays with them and shares her faith.
“She’s doing what people of faith should be doing,” Luke said. “For her to help as many as she has is just remarkable.”
“She’s amazing,” Kate said.
For more than a week, Oklahomans have battled freezing temperatures. On top of that, multiple waves of snow covered parts of the state. Some areas received nearly a foot of snow. According to the National Weather Service, Oklahoma City hit minus-14 degrees Fahrenheit early Tuesday morning, nearly breaking a more than 100-year-old record.
Following the winter storm, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state.
“The combination of nearly two weeks of record-breaking low temperatures, heavy snow, and freezing rain has had significant impacts on communities across the state,” said Mark Gower, director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
Due to the extended forecast, some of those for whom Herbert found housing were able to stay for two weeks.
The work she has done, along with shelters at the local Homeless Alliance and those organized by other groups, likely saved many lives. Unfortunately, not everyone could be saved.
In Oklahoma City, officials say a homeless man died after staying outside in the brutal cold.
Herbert said she knew the man and had even tried to get him into a hotel.
“It’s absolutely what we do every day at Second Chances.”
“They wouldn’t leave their stuff to shelter,” Herbert said. “This is all they have, and they don’t want to leave their stuff.”
Homelessness is a complex issue that isn’t easily solved. Knowing that, Herbert looks ahead, hoping to get sleeping bags, tents and other items to help these individuals after they check out of the hotels.
“I’m working with lots of other people who have followed my journey to get the $84 sets because when the cold ends, they will go back to the street,” Herbert said.
While she’s grateful for the attention her recent work has received, she points out that it’s really nothing new.
“It’s absolutely what we do every day at Second Chances,” she said.
Find out more about Herbert and her store, Second Chances at secondchancesthrift.org.
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