Local shelter volunteers, Columbus leaders respond to first cold-related death of 2018

Local News

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Sadly, dropping temperatures appear to have taken the life of a local homeless man who was found dead along W. 10th Street early Monday morning.

Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan tells News 3 it appears the man died of hypothermia.

The deputy director for the Emergency Management Division of Columbus Fire and EMS tells News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton his department works regularly with local shelters to keep them in the loop when dangerous conditions are on the way.

“What we do is we’ll look and say, okay it’s gonna be below freezing for more than a day or two, and we know that’s eventually going to start wearing down folks that are outside. So they’ll go ahead and up ramp and get their shelters open and expand their capacities,” says Deputy Director Riley Land.

One shelter the city works closely with is SafeHouse Ministries on Hamilton Road. When organizers receive the word of dangerous temperatures, SafeHouse opens its temporary, emergency warming station.

“There should be no reason that you feel forced to have to sleep on the streets,” says SafeHouse Connections Coordinator Julio Hernandez. “The most important thing is for you to survive to see the next day, and that is why we’re here.”

Volunteers tell News 3 they hope they can bring compassion to those struggling through the cold and through hard times.

“I realize how it was when I was out on the streets and I didn’t have anything to do, no where to go, no one to feed me. I just enjoy it so much, it’s so rewarding,” says one volunteer Jennifer Teagle.

“If we didn’t have programs like this SafeHouse here, there’d be a lot more people freezing,” says Winfred Shipman, Jr., another volunteer. “This program is very helpful.”

While local shelters plan to do all they can, volunteers say there are ways everyone can help.

“I was always a big believer in if you see something, say something. Just to put the word out and not to ignore them, you know, as if they don’t exist,” Hernandez says. “Say you’re driving down the street on the way to the grocery store and you see someone sleeping on the street, there’s no harm in letting that person know, ‘Hey, you don’t have to sleep outdoors.'”

Contact SafeHouse Ministries at 706-322-3773.

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