When Chris Polone, owner of the Rail Club Live, woke up Monday morning without power, he checked his Westside bar and music venue. The bar’s location near a Fort Worth police station and MedStar headquarters meant that power and heat would likely be consistent even as most of Fort Worth remained without heat and power.
Even though the bar continues to be closed due to state COVID-19-related mandates, Polone and his staff announced that The Rail would welcome anyone seeking a warm, safe space.
“First, I made a post,” on Facebook, he said. “We’re broke as a joke. We told folks that we would come get them but please provide blankets. It went viral. As a result, people started donating food and bottles of water.”
As the city announced shelters and warming stations, Polone contacted the city and asked to be placed on the official list of warming stations. City staff were reluctant to accept the help, Polone said. The Rail Club was eventually acknowledged by the city, but little to nothing has been done to alert West Side residents of the large, warm space, he said.
“People don’t want to drive” to our shelter, Polone said. “Yesterday, we drove to East Lancaster Avenue and started shuttling the homeless all night long. We’ve been documenting this whole thing. We pulled into that side of town, and people were sleeping on the sidewalk.”
During peaks, The Rail hosts 40 people, Polone said, and volunteers have stepped up to help in the effort. Some folks come for food and water while others have stayed at the bar/music venue since Monday.
The main problem, Polone said, has been getting the word out.
“We have an 800-capacity room,” he added. “We can house a lot more. We are being underutilized.”
Polone has been an outspoken critic of state-mandated bar closing that have allowed churches, gyms, and other businesses to operate, sometimes with few restrictions. Polone believes the city is slighting him and his business for personal reasons.
“Betsy Price won’t put her damn pride aside and let us help,” Polone said. “None of her press conferences have mentioned us. I don’t care if they mention our name. There is no one in this area” providing our services.
Anyone who needs a warm place to stay can call the Rail Club (3101 Joyce Drive) at 817-386-4309.
“We will pick people up,” he said. “This evening, we will start driving around picking up the homeless and taking them here. The community is picking up the ball. We don’t want money. We want water, food, and blankets. We are taking in the cold, the hungry, and the desperate.”
More information on the city’s shelters is available at the city’s website.