Homelessness during the winter & the problems that arise

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Reported by: Lynn Casey
Updated: 12/23/2013 10:29 pm Published: 12/23/2013 9:46 pm

The colder it gets the more important it is for the homeless to find some place warm to stay.

That often means some people will try to start fires in abandoned buildings to keep warm.

FOX23 went to the Tulsa Day Center For The Homeless to see just how big of a problem this is in Tulsa, and how you can help.

Early this morning fire crews were at a vacant house fire on the west side of town.

It wasn't confirmed that this was for sure the case, but the Tulsa fire department says it gets calls at least once a week for fires that get out of control from people setting them in abandoned buildings, just to stay warm.

FOX23 spoke with Sandra Lewis, the executive director of The Tulsa Day Center For The Homeless.

"Sometimes people don't stay at places like the Tulsa Day Center For The Homeless because they don't or aren't able to follow certain rules that can vary from not having pets, to substance abuse. But on nights like these some centers will make exceptions," Lewis told FOX23.

"The last thing in the world we want is for someone to freeze to death, or suffer frostbite. Or, as you said, be in an abandoned building and be burned. A lot of people might not know they won't be turned away on frigid cold nights," Lewis told FOX23.

Sandra says you can help make sure people know.

"I think sometimes people think, 'I don't know if I should get involved or not'," Lewis explained.

But Sandra says this being the week of Christmas, along with the freezing temperatures is all the more reason people should get involved and it can be as simple as making a phone call.

"If they see someone that's on the sidewalk and appears to be sleeping outside, call the police. They know where the shelters are, and they can bring people here," Lewis said.

We're about to warm up a bit in the Tulsa area, but we've still got a long winter ahead of us. When those temps drop back down, the days will be cold too and the day center is the only place in town open all day long for people to stay warm.

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