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Some sidewalk sleepers skip shelters and bundle up in bitter cold weather

Even with record cold temperatures Tuesday night, homeless people were stretched out on Grand Rapids sidewalks bundled in blankets and winter coats.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — West Michigan shelters were filled Tuesday night with homeless people finding refuge from the record-cold weather. But even with freezing temperatures in the forecast, some prefer to stay outside.

People bundled in blankets and heavy coats were stretched out on sidewalks on Monroe Center in Grand Rapids. Others burrow into sleeping bags in more secluded locations. 

“I just like being alone, I don’t like to be around a lot of people,” says Neil Chernaskey to explain why he won’t be sleeping at the Mel Trotter Ministries Shelter. “It is overcrowded, and I get a little nervous around a lot of people.”

The decision to stay outside on bitter cold nights can be deadly. There is no accurate database but every year in America there are reports of homeless people who die from hypothermia while sleeping out in the cold.

“I stay in my sleeping bag,” says Chernaskey. “I zip it up and put a blanket over that and I will be warm. I like being by myself. Gives me time to think, pray to God, read a book. I believe the body gets used to the cold.”


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