Cold conditions threaten homeless population across Delmarva
GEORGETOWN, Del.- As arctic blast conditions hit the east coast, homeless shelters, and outreach centers say this weekend is one of the most dangerous for those without heat or shelter.
“Last few days with the cold One thing I’m noticing is people are suffering out here right now and they are hunkering down where ever they can find a spot,” said Jim Martin of the Shepherds Office in Georgetown.
He says while his outreach center is not allowed to host the homeless overnight, they have been working to provide food, and warming centers for the homeless to stay while they wait for shelters such as Higher Ground Outreach, the Ace Center, and Code Purple to begin their overnight hours around 9 pm.
Martin spent Saturday morning helping those who chose to stay outside, offering blankets, propane for space heaters, and sanitary items, while trying to convince them to get indoors and get warm.
He tells 47ABC just a few days out in the cold can do real physical and mental damage.
“What I’ve been seeing is if you have an untreated mental illness is really ramping up now, to a whole other level, we’ve been seeing people walking in the street, someone we know is suffering a drug relapse, we saw him walking in the middle of traffic we had to pull him on to the sidewalk yesterday,” Martin said.
In Salisbury HALO Shelter tells 47ABC that they had 78 overnight guests, including 2 walk-ups.
Halo will be continuing its overnight stay hours into Sunday morning.
Other homeless in Georgetown chose to sleep in their cars, including a 69-year-old man named Stephen.
“It was absolutely brutal,you cannot sleep in your vehicle, let alone under the stars in this weather you just cannot do it,” he said.
Stephen tells us he lost his home in October and has been on the streets living in his car since. He tells us two recent burglaries of his car have left him unwilling to abandon it to spend a night in a shelter unsecured.
“For me, I have a lot of things that I own the last things, I own on this planet that I don’t want to leave sitting in a parking lot somewhere so I need to stay in my vehicle,” he said adding “If they had a secure yard that was safe to park I’d get inside in a heartbeat but I just don’t have that opportunity.”
Stephen tells us the dropping temperatures have led to him driving all night long to stay warm, and sleeping during the day as it gets warmer.
He says Friday night was one of the toughest he’s endured.
“I knew there was going to be no sleeping last night you start your car up and shut it off three minutes later you are freezing again,” Stephen said.
He says he’s seen other homeless spending the nights outside and says from his experience while the need for shelter is the most important one, it isn’t the only need not being met.
“Coffee, a bottle of water some deodorant toothpaste some brush comb, or zip lock bags that’s needed out here,” he said.