Activist sleeps outside in dangerous cold to raise homelessness awareness

SHARE Activist sleeps outside in dangerous cold to raise homelessness awareness
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Community activist Andrew Holmes sleeps outside, raising awareness of housing issues and calling for additional resources for Chicago’s homeless population, near West Roosevelt Road and South Desplaines Street, early Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. Temperatures overnight were a low as 0 degrees and wind chill values dropped to at least 20 degrees below zero while Holmes slept on a pallet in the snow. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Community activist Andrew Holmes slept outside, on the ground, during dangerously cold temperatures early Wednesday on the South Side in an effort to raise awareness for the city’s homeless population.

“There’s not enough help being done, especially during the winter time,” Holmes said from a tent city on an embankment that overlooks the Dan Ryan Expressway, near West Roosevelt Road and South Desplaines Street. He set up a pallet with a blanket on the ground, near a tent in the center of the encampment.

Holmes took breaks from sleeping to pace back and forth in the area, in an effort to “keep the blood moving,” as the temperature dipped to 3 degrees below zero and the wind chill dropped to 19 degrees below zero. He camped out between 8 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Wednesday’s high was expected to be only 8 degrees with wind chills as low as 15 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service is warning residents in northern Illinois and northwest Indiana of an “excessive cold risk” and “dangerously low” temperatures and wind chills through early Wednesday, then the possibility of snow later in the week.

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That excessive risk will remain in effect at least through New Year’s Day, meteorologists told the Sun-Times. The dangerously low temperatures could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as few as 30 minutes.

Holmes called for more homeless shelters in Chicago, equipped with nurses, counselors and job training facilities on site. He has camped out at least one night during the winter for the last six years.

According to an April 2017 study from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the 2015 census indicated there were more than 82,200 homeless Chicagoans.

“We had a rodent problem here in the city of Chicago and there was enough funds to get the rodents off the street. Let’s try to get the homeless off the street too,” Holmes said.

Several warming centers are dedicated for residents to find refuge from the cold. The warming centers are open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at:

  • Englewood Center, 1140 W. 79th St.
  • Garfield Center, 10 S. Kedzie Ave.
  • King Center, 4314 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
  • North Area, 845 W. Wilson Ave.
  • South Chicago, 8650 S. Commercial Ave.
  • Trina Davila, 4312 W. North Ave.

The Garfield Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To request a well-being check for someone who may be suffering from the cold, report inadequate heat in a residential building, or connect to shelter and supportive services, call 3-1-1.

For information on Cook County warming centers outside of Chicago, people should call the Cook County Department of Homeland Security’s Duty Desk at (312) 603-8185.

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