Those who are homeless in Killeen will have a place to stay this winter after the city cut a ribbon for its first homeless shelter Thursday night.
Families In Crisis, a local nonprofit organization, will operate the $1.4 million facility that will house up to 74 people.
According to a compilation of surveys by the Central Texas Homeless Alliance conducted earlier this year, 532 people identified themselves as homeless in the Killeen-Temple metropolitan area.
Larry Moehnke, Families in Crisis board president, said the shelter, at 412 E. Sprott Ave., will operate 365 days a year and provide housing for people from 3 p.m. until the next morning.
“We expanded our mission because (dealing with homelessness) is such a critical need for our community,” he said.
The shelter has space for 18 women and children in one section of the building and 56 men in a separate space, Moehnke said. The shelter also has a kitchen, dining hall and laundry rooms. All services are free.
Through a partnership with the Greater Killeen Free Clinic, the shelter has a medical examination room.
“We are trying to not just provide a shelter, but also to secure the services that they are eligible for, and hopefully, get most of them infused back into society,” Moehnke said.
The shelter will not open until Dec. 15, because the contractor still needs to complete renovation work.
The organization decided to conduct a ribbon-cutting as a way to give the public a sneak peek of the shelter and celebrate its 35th year of service to the community.
The city provided $510,564 in 2013 as part of a community development block grant from the federal government to the organization to help pay for a complete renovation of the building, which used to be a church.
The city provided an additional $250,000 in February 2014.
The organization also paid for the facility through donations, Moehnke said, and took out a loan.
“We decided we needed to move forward so our homeless would not be out on the streets for another year,” Moehnke said.
Mayor Scott Cosper said he enjoyed seeing the shelter and thinks it will provide a service the city needs.
“We are proud of this and look forward to the blessing it will provide for so many in need and those that are most vulnerable in our community,” Cosper said.
Councilwoman Shirley Fleming, who represents north Killeen, said the city has needed a shelter for a long time and called it “one of the greatest things Killeen could have.”
“The residents needed something like this yesterday. This is one of the best things we could do,” Fleming said. “Anyone can come. It’s wonderful. There is no criteria or anything.”
Those who attended the ceremony got to participate in a tour and then were invited to stay for a Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce mixer in the men’s dorm.