DENVER — For some, Tuesday’s snowstorm meant more time with their kids home from school. For others, it was a half-day at work and a night in front of a warm fireplace. But for those experiencing homelessness, the storm brings with it temperatures so cold they can be deadly.
"This is death weather. If you’re not prepared for this, you’re going to die," said Alice Crawford, a 25-year-old who's lived on the streets for several months. "We don’t even sleep at night. We have to wait until the sun is out to sleep because we’re too damn cold. You have to constantly move around."
Crawford gave her coat to a friend this morning, leaving her with only a light sweater. She thought that person needed the coat more than she did. For the second straight night, she'll sleep outside in the cold and snow.
"I sleep behind the dumpster because you stay out of the wind and some of the snow doesn’t fall on you," Crawford said. "If you get wet and you stay outside, you’re going to get to that point where, well, I don’t know, I guess I’ve never gotten to that point."
As the snow piles up, Tim Rouse hunkers down.
He hasn’t moved since the snow started falling yesterday. He has nowhere to go. A storefront is the warmest place he could find to ride out the storm.
For now, he calls a strip of sidewalk off South Broadway home. He rests his chances on making it through another night on a can of soup and his faith.
"Just a little cubbyhole. Keeps the wind off of you a little bit, keeps the snow off," Rouse said. "I’m very cold right now but God’s got me. Even when it’s cold, he lets me know that it’s OK."
The Denver Street Outreach Collaborative has a team of workers patrolling through the snowy streets handing out blankets and taking people to shelters. Their goal is to connect with people living on the streets and get them help.
"It’s a life or death situation," said Kelda Polomik-tene, an outreach worker with St. Francis Center. "Tonight is a critical night to see people, even just survive. We hope and pray that they do."
People set up tents on Tuesday along major streets in Denver and in Civic Center Park in an attempt to stay warm. Denver currently has an urban camping ban that outlaws eating, sleeping or storing belongings in public with a shelter. A challenge to that law is making its way through Denver County Court.
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