James F. McIngvale, owner of a Houston furniture store known as & # 39; Mattress Mack & # 39; saw his fellow Texans cold and hungry, with little shelter from the winter storm that has ravaged the state and the flow to millions has turned off.
So just like he did during Hurricane Harvey and other storms, Mr. McIngvale, 70, opened his doors and people came.
Since Tuesday, thousands have made the trip to Mr. McIngvale & # 39; s Gallery Furniture, spending a few hours on armchairs and sofas to warm up, or sleeping on their choice of beds that, in better times, are meant for the potential clients which the more than 100,000 visit. square meter showroom. As many as 500 people have chosen to spend the last two nights, he said.
For now, people in need can eat donated meals or food paid for by Mr. McIngvale in this makeshift shelter. Children frolic on playground equipment in the children's area. Masks and hand sanitizing stations are set up in the front as a precaution against the coronavirus, another danger Texans grapple with as they deal with freezing temperatures, power outages and a lack of clean drinking water.
"We are free enterprise for profit," Mr. McIngvale said in an interview Thursday. "But in the end I would be judged by how much difference I make, not how much profit I make."
Mr. McIngvale and his wife started the furniture store on Houston's North Freeway about 30 years ago with an investment of $ 5,000. He said he is inspired by his Catholic faith.
“If my people die and freeze, I'll take care of them,” he said. "That comes before the win every time."
Mr. McIngvale said the store uses a large generator for electricity, although he said power slowly started to return on Thursday. Using toilets can be challenging without running water, he said, but buckets of water were brought in from an outside source to flush the toilets.
Rosie May Williams, 48, who said she is homeless, tried to find shelter at a convention center earlier this week, but was told the capacity was too high. She was transported to the furniture store by bus and slept in a recliner for the past two nights and ate braised chicken for dinner one of those evenings.
& # 39; They've been very good to me, & # 39; she said.
Many of those who chose to stay have organized as volunteers, emptying the trash, and taking care of other people, who range in age from the very young to older adults in their 90s, Mr. McIngvale said.
“We will stay open as long as people need us,” he said.