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Homeless advocates step up efforts to help during bitter cold

SALT LAKE CITY – The weather is going to stay bitter cold for the next few days, and this is making conditions a lot more dangerous for Utah’s homeless population.

Along many portions of the state, the air will be getting warmer for the rest of the week.  However, in the Wasatch Front, the inversion will prevent the temperatures from going up too much.

“In the valley, with the cold air in place, especially with the snow cover on the ground, that air is going to remain trapped and any warming we see is going to be minimal,” according to National Weather Service Forecaster Glen Merrill.

The overnight lows are expected to be in the teens, which is not much warmer than what we’ve had over the past few days.

Merrill says, “We were running at ten to fifteen degrees below normal.  We’re going to be trending to five to ten degrees below normal.”

Currently, officials at Volunteers of America of Utah say there is space inside homeless shelters in the valley.  However, some people decide not to use them for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes, people are afraid of the criminal element inside.  Or, others may not be able to follow the rules of the shelter.

So, Homeless Outreach Director Amanda Christensen says they go to the well-known campsites to give people what they need.

“We provide them with all sorts of basic need items, like sleeping bags, tarps, hand-foot warmers and any type of warm weather clothing you could think of,” she says.

In time, after they build a rapport with someone in need, they try to convince them to come to the shelter.

“We really work with them to encourage them to access services,” Christensen says.