Helping the homeless in extreme cold

Helping the homeless in extreme cold

BRISTOL, Va. - As the temperatures continue to drop, the Bristol, Virginia Police Department will be busy making "welfare checks" on homeless people who will be outside coping with the weather.

We spoke with police Monday, and they explained why there is a serious threat for anyone outdoors as it gets colder outside.

Many people are trying to avoid the cold by staying warm inside, but others aren't so lucky. "It's just extremely important with the weather we are expecting to check on [homeless] people," said Bristol, Virginia Police Capt. Maynard Ratcliff.

That's why the BVPD is making welfare checks on the homeless in the area to make sure they have a place to go, or that they are okay. "I know they stay out in the cold a lot and they're used to it, but the temperatures that are expected in the next day or two are very extreme," Ratcliff explained.

Captain Ratcliff tells us many of the homeless people will go to shelters when the temperatures reach the teens, but not all do. "We try to get them to go into a shelter if we can, but a lot of times they refuse to. A lot of times maybe they're just not able to because they're intoxicated," he said.

Ratcliff tells us the ones who choose not to go try to fend for themselves. "They find any kind of shelter they can find, or any kind of makeshift shelter they can come up with. Some may live in a tent, some may not have a tent or crawl under buildings," he said.

That decision could cost them, because there are extreme health risks for anyone staying out in the cold for long periods of time. "Any exposed skin can be subject to frostbite really quick with the extreme temperatures, and even worse, hypothermia, which can be deadly," Ratcliff said.

Ratcliff tells us that when officers have free time they make rounds to where the homeless usually gather to make sure everyone is okay and nobody is sick.

Ratcliff tells us they also make welfare checks on anyone who requests them, especially elderly people who live by themselves. He also encourages neighbors to check on each other while the cold weather is around.

If you have someone you would like to have checked on, you can contact the Bristol, Virginia Police Department at (276) 645-7400.

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