Efforts underway to help homeless during dangerously low temperatures

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In Detroit since late December at least three people have died from the bitter cold on the streets.

There is warmth, there is food and there is shelter available, thanks to volunteers dedicated to make sure those who need it most get help. 

"I can't afford to pay utilities and rent so I'm trying to get into someplace I can afford to pay," said Andrew Lewis. "I've only been (on the streets) for about three weeks."

Three weeks, the last of which has felt the longest with temperatures dipping into the single digits.  Andrew Lewis has been able to survive so far, in part thanks to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit. 

Their doors are open in the day providing a shower and meal, maybe even donated clothes which can make the weather seem tolerable.  

But starting Thursday night, temperatures will feel like -30. To call that dangerous alone is insulting to people who have to live in it, not for a minute or an hour -  but for the entire day and night. 

"It's too dangerous for a dog to be no more than a human - because it's killing people," said one homeless woman.

So starting Friday, something new is beginning, an effort to canvas the streets of Detroit this weekend using volunteers to pick up homeless who may otherwise die on the streets. 

City officials say it is not enough to have shelters like the Detroit Rescue Mission open, that transporting the homeless can save lives. 

Volunteers are asked to meet at 6 p.m. Friday at the Detroit Rescue Mission on Stimson between Woodward and Cass.

"You'll be given a map where we know homeless individuals tend to travel," said Terra DeFoe, city of Detroit. "We are asking everyone, to be safe, and if you identify that homeless individual, you can call a number that will be on your packet and transportation will come to pick that individual up."

At least 11 rec centers are open as well as overnight shelters. When those fill up, churches will be urged to open up the pews for people who need to stay warm.
About 2,000 meals a day are being served at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. But it's not just hot food homeless get here. It's a place to spend the day. 

"We try to extend our hours a little bit more in the morning, a little bit more in the afternoon so people have a little bit of a warmer place to stay," said Brother Jerry Johnson. "And we also have our shower program that will help folks get some dry, clean clothes."

To help people just like Willie Coleman, the city is hoping you will pitch in to help.

"If they see individuals because nine times out of 10 they are greeted by a homeless individual that may be in their doorway when they open up their business the next day," DeFoe said. "We want to make sure they have a number they can call."

Call (313) 224-1371 to volunteer or (313) 999-1972 to report a homeless person.