Chicago homeless shelter ready for weekend as bitter temps arrive

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Best way to keep warm is to stay inside, turn up the thermostat or throw another log on the fire. But not everyone can do that. 

There are many homeless men and women on Chicago’s streets who once bravely served our nation. However, now they’re living in tents and braving the cold.

The waiting line of men, women and children looking to escape the cold outside the Pacific Garden Mission is expected to grow as weekend temperatures are set to reach dangerously low levels.

“We'll probably see numbers over a thousand in the building at night. People are going to come in with frostbite, all different types of afflictions. They'll be driven in by the cold,” said Stephen Welsch of Pacific Garden Mission.

Among those driven in by the cold will be a growing number of our nation's veterans, many of whom you might not recognize if you saw them

“I want to challenge the physical visual stereotype people have about the homeless veteran...it's typically a 60 year old Vietnam era veteran who is pushing a shopping cart around in a long dirty trenchcoat with serious mental health issues,” said Nancy Hughes Moyer, President and CEO of Volunteers of America Illinois.

Michael Desmond is a former marine and a specialist at volunteers of America in Chicago. He says that for veterans, every road to homelessness in unique

“Each veteran has their story…we like to lump people in a lot of categories…when you meet one veteran you harr their story, you are hearing (just) one veteran's story,” Desmond said.

The good news is there are a growing number of homes being built in Chicago so that no veteran ever has to be without a place of their own. The problem is getting to the homeless veterans we can't see

“They're parked in vans and in very old cars in parking lots somewhere where during the day by going to McDonalds and going to the library, they can look like they're blending in with everybody else.”

Every two years volunteers physically count the number of homeless people in Chicago. The headcount is key to getting federal funding.

By the way, the next count is this coming Tuesday the 26th.

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