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Homeless people told to go back to the street depending on the temperature

Posted at 10:19 PM, Jan 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 07:59:31-05

MILWAUKEE — The extremely cold night in Milwaukee County means all the shelters and warming centers are open, but that is not always the case. The homeless group Street Angels say that means some people get left on the street in the cold.

Calvin Bigelow, 59, just wants to get warm. Most of the time he lives in a tent on the south side. Thursday night, he is on the homeless outreach bus run by Street Angels, headed to a shelter.

"Hopefully there is bed space when I get there tonight otherwise I have to go back in my tent," said Bigelow.

The last few weeks Calvin and at least six others have been told there's no room.

"Been trying to go to the homeless shelters but they are all full," said Bigelow.

The Street Angels said they have left even more people outside who didn't even want to try to find a bed. The reason is temperature. In Milwaukee County, some warming centers open when the temperature hits freezing, 32 degrees. In the city, the threshold is lower, 20 degrees.

"During the winter it is a scramble to get indoors," said Eva Welsh, co-executive director of Street Angels.

Milwaukee County has a total of about 900 beds available. There are an estimated 885 people who are homeless according to last year's Homeless Point in Time count.

But when it's warmer than 20 degrees, 95 beds of those beds are closed.

Outreach Community Health Ashley Wisnefsk said earlier this week, by their count, that difference left 60 people living outside.

"We need extra space. There's needs to be a stand-alone warming center that's there every year where people know where to go when they are facing freezing to death at night," said Welsh.

For Calvin, he is grateful he doesn't have to face that tonight. He made it in the warming rooms.

If you or someone you know needs a warm place to sleep simply call 2-1-1. You can also text your ZIP Code to TXT-211 [898-211] and someone will chat with you.

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