Rio Grande Valley warming shelters surprised by low turnout

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As freezing temperatures continue across the Valley, some shelters have been surprised by the low number of people seeking a warm place to stay.

"We were anticipating to expect more because we have in the past during the winter times have received a pretty big number and this year it just kind of left us in question," said Loaves & Fishes Office Manager Melissa Gutierrez.

RELATED: List: Rio Grande Valley shelters opening due to cold weather

At Loaves and Fishes in Harlingen, only seven people showed up Sunday night: a family of five and two others.

The lower Valley shelter isn’t the only one seeing a low turnout. The Salvation Army in McAllen only had 17 people stay the night on Sunday.

"We haven't had the number that we were thinking was going to turn out," said Commanding Officer of the McAllen Salvation Army Adolph Aguirre. “There could be various factors attributed to the low number. We know that the emergency management team for Hidalgo County has worked to open up other shelters."

Gutierrez believes one possible explanation for the low turnout is fear over COVID-19. But she wants to assure everyone that shelters are taking precautions, including temperature checks, constant disinfecting, screening for symptoms and social distancing.

In Mercedes, the turnout was better than expected. Only a handful of people took refuge at the Mission Parks and Recreation building and the Vanguard Academy Gymnasium in Pharr. Warming shelters in Santa Rosa and La Feria didn’t see much foot traffic, either.


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