It's easy to fall into the trap of cynicism, especially in this day and age. But it's important to remember that sometimes, people do things out of the goodness of their hearts, with no ulterior motives in mind. The opening of the city jail during next week's expected spate of single-digit temperatures is one of those things.
Police Chief Nate King announced Friday morning that the city jail would be open as a temporary shelter until Friday, Feb. 19, at 8 a.m. to those who are homeless or with an inadequate place to stay during inclement weather. He did that because after making several inquiries, he learned such a facility isn't available locally.
It's true that Tahlequah is home to some of the most caring folks in this part of the state, and those charitable souls have banded together to offer various shelters for the homeless, like the Tahlequah Men's Shelter. Families and women who are temporarily down on their luck can also get a roof over their heads through Hope House, and battered women and their children find refuge with Help In Crisis. The Tahlequah Day Center is also a boon for those who need help.
But chronic or temporary homelessness aren't the only problems that cause someone to seek shelter elsewhere. Some people may have homes or apartments that are simply inadequate to get them through an unusually brutal cold spell like the one expected to hit this county next week. Some folks may not have heat in their homes, or what they do have is substandard. Perhaps they can't afford decent insulation, or their windows don't ward off the chill. And maybe, due to pandemic-related job loss or other circumstances, they can't afford the kind of food that would sustain them through a prolonged period of battening down the hatches.
King said those staying at the shelter will be free to come and go as they please. That ought to dispel the sardonic claim that cops are looking to round up people for arrest. Those who stay at the jail will not only have a warm place to sleep, they'll be fed three times a day, and have access to a shower. King is also looking for coats, blankets, stocking caps, and gloves to give to officers to distribute during patrols, since some folks might need help that doesn't rise to the level of actual shelter. And officers will be happy to give people rides to the jail.
Thanks to climate change, weather forecasting seems to be less a science than a stint in front of a crystal ball, but people of goodwill have no choice but to take preemptive measures when the signs point to single-digit or sub-zero temperatures. That's what King and his team have done, and the community should be grateful.