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Freezing temperatures taking toll on homeless in Denver

Two men die of suspected exposure
Posted at 8:20 AM, Feb 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-16 15:36:17-05

DENVER -- There are some disturbing numbers from this freezing February.

Our partners at The Denver Post talked to Police and learned that in the last 8 days, two men found dead in separate locations, likely died from exposure.

One of the victims was found Feb. 10, at a bus stop on Brighton Blvd near 29th Street. The temperature in Denver had dropped down to 12 degrees on that day.

The other was found Feb. 8, near 21st and California. The low on that day was 19 degrees.

"When it's as cold as it was, and it was cold that morning, it cold enough to kill you," said Joe McDaniel, a resident at the nearby Crossroads Shelter.

The temperature in Denver dipped down to 19 degrees on Feb. 8, and down to 12 degrees on the 10th.

McDaniel said he knew the man who died at the bus stop.

"Not personally," he said, "I'd seen him at the shelter. We all live in the shelter right there, and we struggle together. We all go to work everyday."

McDaniel said he can't help but wonder if the victim missed the 11:00 curfew and couldn't get back into the shelter.

Joe Davis has another take.

Davis, who is now living in a tent, after being asked to leave the shelter, told Denver7 the victim too was asked to leave.

"He had some kind of conflict," Davis said.

A supervisor at the shelter told Denver7 he "didn't know," if the victim had been asked to leave.

We reached out to the Salvation Army. The media contact, Rachel Flower said they're "still gathering info."

Flower added, “We were incredibly saddened to hear of the recent deaths of people experiencing homelessness in our city. The Salvation Army makes every effort to keep people warm and safe, especially in harsh conditions. Crossroads is open every night for up to 500 men experiencing homelessness, and open during the day when weather is extreme. We provide dinner and transportation to additional shelter locations when we reach capacity. Every night from 9pm-1am we operate our Search and Rescue program, offering rides to shelters or providing those who wish to stay on the street with water, snacks, blankets, gloves and scarves. With more cold nights coming up, we hope more people will come to us for help, and that no more lives will be lost.”

Davis said he wishes someone would have told him if the victim had been asked to leave.

"They could have come down here and easily asked me to give him these blankets, these jackets," he said. "I have plenty for everyone."

Lisa Calderon, the chief of staff for Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, said, "Even if someone is unruly at a shelter, the options shouldn't be to be out on the street, in sub-freezing temperatures because you had a behavior problem."

Calderon added that many homeless people have behavior issues that are related to mental illness, or addiction, and that cold weather makes it worse.

She said Denver needs more housing for the homeless and needs to revamp shelters.

"Sheltering, the way it's been done in Denver for quite a long time, warehouses human beings, which means we have people packed in rooms 300 - 500 head to foot. That is not a humane way to treat people."

Calderon also said that as Denver residents debate the city's camping ban, they need to remember there are real human beings on the streets every night, out in the cold.

"They're not super-human," she said. They're not used to being out there like a lot of people think. They can freeze to death.