Detroit outreach workers search streets to bring homeless in from cold

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It can be a cold, thankless job - but sometimes those are the most important ones. Six homeless outreach workers are scouring the city.

They stop beneath overpasses, along river banks and on quiet corners, pleading with the least among us to get out of the cold and into a shelter. 

FOX 2: "This is really a matter of life and death?"

"Yes. it is," said Julie Woodhouse Dressler, an employee with Southwest Solutions. "We took several people to the hospital last week and this week who had frostbite. One person, the infection they're afraid spread to his bones and that will result in amputation."

There have been four deaths attributed to cold weather in metro Detroit in the past week, but only one was indigent.

Southwest Solutions is spearheading an effort with the city of Detroit and several non-profits to get the homeless off the streets. And it can be a hard sell.

"Sometimes we're not able to convince them to go because they have things like severe mental illness, substance abuse and they just refuse to go into shelters," said outreach worker Donna Williams.

So the outreach team doesn't show up emptyhanded. Instead they come bearing gifts to help brave the cold. Handwarmers, socks, sleeping bags and sometimes, they get lucky and someone comes in from the cold.

"It got a little colder, I guess," said Ronald. "You know, it's going to be alright."

Another man, Arnold, has been on the streets for months. But tonight, he won't freeze. 

"I won't chance it tonight," Arnold said. "I'd rather go in."

The Outreach Team got Arnold and another man named William to the Detroit Rescue Mission. 

A man living in a makeshift igloo in the frozen marsh below MacArthur Bridge, would have been the team's third.


No response and it has everyone fearing the worst.

"You don't have to come out but let me know you're okay."

Julie crawls inside not sure of what she'll find.

"Otese, you in here? Oh good. he's not here."

Relief. Members of the outreach team have found bodies before. They found none tonight.

"I'll probably just come back tomorrow, bring him food and just make sure he's alright," said Dressler. "Because he's older. But he's lived out here for a lot of years. He'll probably make it. Fingers crossed."

TO DONATE: If you would like to help, donate new boots, waterproof gloves and socks. They can be dropped off at the Housing Resource Center at 1600 Porter in Detroit. They take monetary donations to purchase supplies that are passed out. Monetary donations can be made through the website at