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App helps bring in people from the cold

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TPR's Jerry Clayton recently spoke with Pastor Alex Fleming, who came up with idea for an app that helps volunteers coordinate resources to help bring in people from the cold

Jerry Clayton: Winter weather can be a challenge for everyone, but for the unhoused population in San Antonio, the cold can be a matter of life and death. One of the groups helping keep people warm is a coalition of churches that has developed an app that helps organizations coordinate their efforts. Pastor Alex Fleming of the Life Restored Church had the idea to develop the app. He joins us today. Thanks for being here.

Alex Fleming: Anytime. Thanks for having me.

Clayton: Pastor Fleming, from your point of view, what does the situation for the unhoused in San Antonio look like?

Fleming: Man, you know, last time we checked, there were like about 3000 here, but it seems like more and more other states across the nation are giving their homeless people bus tickets to come down here. So we're seeing an influx. And so with each new influx, there's needs to be more help, more creativity, ingenuity, resources to handle the problem.

Clayton: I know that your church has an outreach program. Tell me about how that works, along with the other churches involved.

Fleming: So we have seen an average of five homeless a year get off the street and get into their own either apartments or places of residence. And the way that happens is in from the, I guess, conventional way of doing things. We're literally changing identity, which is the attacking of the false narrative that people have about themselves. What we call it is the humanization phase where we just remind people of, you know, they're made in the image of God. And this isn't what God has for you to live this way. There's more out there for you, just reaching your maximum capacity. So we do that in several ways. One of the best ways is going to be through osmosis, just hanging around people. We've heard the saying you're the sum total of the five people you spend the most time around. So we offer people that opportunity, right? And you know, we're seeing great things happen there with our showers, with our overnight winter shelters, with our feedings and during all those times, they're around people that are speaking life. Speaking of hope, hope, something so underutilized but yet so powerful that every person has the ability to do.

Winter Shelter Coalition App
Winter Shelter Coalition App

Clayton: Tell me about the app. Where did the idea come from and how did it come to fruition?

Fleming: So we first started doing winter shelters about six years ago at our church. Pretty much no one was doing it at that time. And the Lord, this is the Lord. I'm the pastor. And so, you know, the Lord told me to take in the homeless. That's what a church is supposed to do. We did it that first night. It was crazy, but it went well. And then after that, the next two years we started training. Other churches and more churches got on board to open up their doors, and we showed them the processes and the procedures. And all of that geared up for last year, which was "snowvid" that we had in Texas. So all the churches and ministries we were previously training were ready to locked and loaded, ready to go. And so in the middle of that, we were calling each other texting each other, you know, can I drop people off here? Do you have beds available? We need food. All of this. And again, I give credit to the Lord gave me the idea that, you know, let's put this in an app formation. You know, we're all of this is in one thing. And so the app pretty much is that it lets first responders know that these are the locations that are taking in homeless and lets them know available spots in real time. It gives them the opportunity to reserve a spot as well, so they're not wasting a trip. And then on the back end, all of the winter shelters in our Winter Shelter Coalition, we're able to communicate with each other through a group chat that's specifically geared for the winter shelter on resources that we need.

Clayton: And where can you find the app and what's it called?

Fleming: It's called the Winter Shelter Coalition. It's downloadable for Apple, for Google, so go to your App Store and you could download it there.

Clayton: Pastor Fleming, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.

Fleming: Thank you so much, sir. Appreciate it.

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Jerry Clayton can be reached at jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @jerryclayton.