Man found dead likely is casualty of weather City homeless shelters trying to meet increased demand for space

January 11, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A man apparently froze to death while seeking refuge from the cold, and hundreds of homeless people in Baltimore have flocked to shelters throughout the city, authorities reported.

John Lee Jr., 50, who had no fixed address, was found dead late Tuesday morning in a doorway of a house in the 3200 block of Brentwood Ave. in Northeast Baltimore. Mr. Lee, who had tried to shelter himself from the cold, is believed to have died of hypothermia, city police said.

An autopsy is to be performed. If his death is the result of the cold, the fatality would be the first attributed to the low temperatures of the past week.

Homeless shelters have been putting out extra beds, mattresses and cots to meet the extra demand of people seeking relief from the cold.

"We're using every bed we have available, and then some," said Mary Lee Bradyhouse, director of homeless services for Associated Catholic Charities. "We're pretty full all winter long, but there's maybe a little bit more demand now."

Homeless shelters in the city have a total of 1,695 temporary beds and 245 permanent dwelling units.

City officials estimate that on any given night, between 2,000 and 2,400 people are homeless in Baltimore.

The officials said they weren't worried about not having shelter for those in need.

"All of the winter programs have agreed not to turn anybody away," said Joanne Selinske, director of the mayor's office of homeless services.

"We're confident that anybody looking for winter shelter will get it," she said.

About two dozen homeless men took refuge yesterday afternoon in the lobby of Christopher's Place, a 32-bed men's shelter in the 700 block of E. Eager St. Not all of them had a bed arranged for the night, but no one seemed too concerned about finding a warm place to stay.

"They won't put you out on a night like this. Sooner or later if you keep trying, you'll find a place that'll take you in," said 28-year-old Gary Pullen, a former security guard who said he's been homeless for three years.

"The worst thing about this storm is the snow drifts. It's hard to walk," Mr. Pullen said.

The cold and the snow have kept even the homeless off the streets.

Gwynette Proctor, the director of Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, said the facility has been serving about 500 people a day during the severe weather, in contrast to roughly 900 people a day normally.

The soup kitchen serves the homeless and the working poor.

"The sidewalks are impassable. We have many guests who are handicapped, either in wheelchairs or on crutches, and they simply cannot make it to us. We're walking the meals down to them," Ms. Proctor said.

Another man at Christopher's, David Rogers, 34, a former truck driver, said he's spent some nights on the cold streets.

But during severe storms, "We find that there's a lot of good people out there who'll let us have a place to stay," he said.

"Look, we're homeless, but we're not stupid. If it's cold, you find a place to go," Mr. Rogers said.

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