Man found dead outside Detroit church as warming centers overwhelmed in cold snap

The bitter cold is believed to have claimed at least one life in Detroit this week after a man was found dead outside of a Detroit church and may have frozen to death.

Police say a man in his 50s was found unresponsive in front of the Shady Grove Missonary Baptist Church on McDougall Street, which is near Gratiot Avenue. A medic unit arrived on scene around 6 a.m. and pronounced the victim deceased. 

Police say the circumstances of the man's death aren't known at this time, but it appears the victim may have frozen to death.

The prolonged cold snap settled over southeast Michigan just after Christmas and isn't going anywhere. Our most vulnerable neighbors, like Robert Gazda, are taking shelter wherever they can find it. However, he's concerned about others in the bitter cold.

"It's frigid and my ears were freezing. I couldn't take it really," Gazda said. "I just couldn't take it no more."

Gazda adds that if it weren't for the shelter at Detroit Rescue Mission Third Street Campus, he wouldn't have anywhere to go.

Advocates for the homeless say help is available and some warming shelters are open 24/7 - they are urging everyone to get inside. Barbara Willis is the COO of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries and says they've seen a 20 percent increase at their warming centers and shelters over the last few frigid days.

"It's deadly out there," Willis said. "Because of the severity of the weather we are open 24/7, because it's critical and it's deadly weather."

The city is also working on outreach efforts with providers to find people and get them inside before it's too late.

Meghan Takashima, Homeless Solutions Director for the  City Of Detroit is urging you to call 911 if you see someone staying outside.

"The real struggle is people who are sleeping on the street and aren't interested in going in to shelter," she said. "If someone sees someone on the street they're concerned about they should call 911 because the temperatures are just so fierce we don't want to wait and our system is stretched to the max trying to get everyone inside - so trying to get and keep those people safe."

If you or someone know needs help finding a warming center, call 313-993-4700. You can also view a full list here.