Workers and homeless battling the bitter cold - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Workers and homeless battling the bitter cold

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By Maurielle Lue
Fox 2 News

DETROIT (WJBK) -- The bitter cold temperature is a blast of reality of the harshness of winter in Michigan.  We hit the streets and talked to people who work, play and even live in the cold.

"It's very cold," one girl told me.

"What's cold on your body?" I asked.

"My face and my feet because I was just ice skating."

I also asked a worker how he keeps warm outside right now.

"When we're outside, we dress warm and we utilize hand warmers, good waterproof boots, good gloves, good hats," he said.

Meanwhile, Brinn Phillips-Draughn said, "You've got to at least make it fashionable.  If you're going to live like an Eskimo, you've got to look good."

First came the snow and now the bitter cold.  Below freezing temps ring in the New Year with a blast or should I say a burr.  It's the coldest it's been all winter.  Even a food truck worker said staying warm is a challenge.

"We can't feel our toes," he told me.  "It's warm on the grill.  That's it.  The rest of it's very cold."

However, for some the cold is more serious, even dangerous.  Lewis Hickson, operations manager at the NSO's Tumaini Center in Detroit, said the city's homeless numbers are nearing 20,000, but with only 2,000 shelter beds in the city, this time of year is especially busy.

"The center has just been filled to capacity," he said. "What you see is what it is. People live in these chairs."

Frank William Dillabree is a former Marine who told me he didn't want to be a burden to his family.

"I don't have [anywhere] to go," he said.  "My sister is dead.  My brother-in-laws are all gone.  All I have are nieces and nephews, and I don't want to be a problem for them."

Even though the arms of the NSO are open to everyone, it's first come, first serve.  That's why Dillabree said keeping warm keeps him on a tight schedule.

"When I come in, it's always warm, and then they have food sometimes," he said. "And walk across the street to the rescue mission and get a meal before I go to Operation Get Down and lay down at night. They feed you before you lay down, hot showers and everything, you can't beat it."

The NSO recently opened the Bell Building on Oakman in Detroit.  That's a permanent housing program for the homeless.  There is a gym, a computer room, an even a library.  It's really meant for homeless people that are working and trying to rebuild their lives.

There are some requirements to get into the Bell Building.  You must be homeless or chronically homeless and have an income within 30 percent of area median income, prove residency in Wayne County and have a disabling condition.

For more information about the Bell Building, call (313) 961-4890 or visit www.nso-mi.org.

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