Jerry Elkins was leaving the city’s only 24-hour warming center to head to a shelter Monday night. He said the “high winds and cold temperatures” had brought him to the warming center, though he had struggled to get there due to a series of epileptic seizures affecting his mobility.
“My body’s a wreck,” Elkins said outside the Garfield Community Service Center at 10 S. Kedzie Ave. “Living out on the streets in these cold temperatures doesn’t really help.”
Although it’s supposed to be open while temperatures are below freezing, the doors of the warming center were locked at 7 p.m. Some seeking to escape the cold banged on the doors until a staff member opened them, others walked away.
When asked how he had gotten by on nights before coming to the warming center, Elkins said, “I do what I can.”
The winter storm that battered the Midwest with low temperatures and high winds has moved on, but the National Weather Service had much of Northern Illinois under a “hazardous weather outlook” and warned of “limited excessive cold risk” Monday night.
Temperatures were poised to stay above zero with no chance of additional snow and 20 mph gusts not returning until Tuesday afternoon.
The danger, however, remained, as hypothermia can still occur when temperatures are above freezing.
Luckily for some, Pilsen’s Andy Robledo — who has helped set up orange tents designed for ice fishing — said those in his tents had been able to brave the elements nearly unscathed, though he said it was “still hard out there.”
“It felt good going there this time and know I didn’t have to pull someone out who had frostbite,” Robledo said, compared to the widespread suffering he saw last year, when people lived in thinner tents.
Robledo said he was frustrated by the city’s solutions to the persistent issue of unhoused people in Chicago, saying warming centers were “great,” but he called them a “Band-Aid.”
His feelings weren’t just limited to the city, however, as he said the state and federal governments should also be stepping in.
The help “has been all community-based,” he said. “It is our neighbors, the people of this city who are stepping up to help our neighbors out there because the city isn’t doing anything.”
Some homeless residents outside the city’s warming centers Monday night agreed.
Anthony Johnson, 50, a lifelong Chicagoan who has been living on the streets for “a while,” said even six months of stability — namely through housing — would be enough to turn people’s lives around.
“Housing is No. 1,” Johnson said, adding he’d “love” to get into a housing program. “If you get housing, then you can look into working and sitting their butts down. … We just need something to help people get stability.”
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December 26, 2022 at 09:40PM