Not Everyone Wants a Warm Bed When it's Cold

By Camaron Abundes   
NewsWest 9

WEST TEXAS- The Salvation Army's Red Shield Lodge in Odessa every inch of space turns into a place to sleep when it's cold. When temperatures drop below 39 degrees a small fee is waived and only those who can't follow the Lodge rules are turned away. Officials say sadly, not everyone sleeping on the streets wants a warm bed because of the rules they are required to follow.

"We fill up all the spaces," Major Carl Hughes with the Salvation Army, said.

Major Hughes says the homeless guests are not allowed to drink, do drugs, and are expected to behave respectfully if they stay in the shelter.

"We always have the folks who come in and don't want to live by the rules," he said.

On Monday morning, police say Willard Charles Watts, 47, likely died from hypothermia. Watts a homeless man, was found outside the Ector County Tax Appraisal District Office in the bushes.  Temperatures reached 26 degrees early Monday morning.

"It's sad when it happens, it really breaks our hearts, because that's what we're here for, to help those that we can help," Major Hughes said. "The guys that do stay here, they've been very concerned today. It shocked them and they know they do need to get out of the cold."

Major Hughes told NewsWest 9 Monday afternoon, some of the Lodge regulars saw Watts on Sunday.

"My understanding is that he didn't have a coat when they saw him. They were encouraging him to come and get a coat," Major Hughes said, but Watts didn't come into the Lodge.

The Lodge is less than a mile from the Appraisers Office.

In Midland, the breaking point is 30 degrees. This year, they started a 30 degree program, when it hits, the fee is waived and Salvation Army Officials open up the women's side of the shelter for men and send the women and children under 12 to another shelter in town.

"We're transporting people, there are a lot more people off the street that we normally don't see," Captain Russ Keeney with the Midland Salvation Army, said.

In order to keep everyone safe and the shelter orderly, a Midland Police Officer conducts background checks during the 30 degree program.

"When you get that many men together, that many ladies, you want to reduce the risk of any kind of problems," he said.

Captain Keeney says it's a safety precaution that unfortunately sends some homeless men and women the other way.

"They see the officer and they don't come in," he said.

In Odessa, Major Hughes says they are considering background checks after the 2009 winter, but said this will likely be one more reason some people do not accept help.