Man and dog have cuddled for eons on cold, snowy nights and this week's blizzard was no different for Curt Artz and his red heeler, 6-year-old Harley. They spent Tuesday night huddled together in a sleeping bag in a shed in South Salt Lake, one of hundreds of homeless Utahns who know winter means staying warm to stay alive.
During this bitterly cold weather, many of them will retreat to the downtown homeless shelter, The Road Home, while others will stubbornly refuse to come inside. Homeless outreach workers spent this week, as they always do, offering supplies such as sleeping bags, waterproof gloves and men's winter jackets, which they are running low on.
During the day, many of the homeless with a place indoors to sleep at night still struggle with where to go. Most are not allowed to remain at the shelter all day and will turn to places such as the public library or, in the case of Artz, Burger King for morning coffee.
"I don't usually have enough money for breakfast," the 50-year-old said.
Thanksgiving and any other winter holiday bring their own set of challenges when many public buildings are not open. The Weigand Center, located across the street from The Road Home, will be open Thursday due to the weather.
"We would usually be closed Thanksgiving Day because so many organizations are serving [food], but when we saw that temperatures were going to hover between 14 and 18 degrees, we decided we needed to open," said Jose Lazaro, director of basic needs services at Catholic Community Services.
Shelter numbers did not spike as expected during this week's blizzard, which may have been a result of people's effort to stay put during the storm. On Wednesday, men and women were allowed into the shelter earlier than normal and will be allowed to stay later in the morning due to the temperatures. That pattern will continue depending on the weather.
"Weather like yesterday is really scary," said James Woolf, director of operations at the shelter. "We just want to remind everybody if they have nowhere to go, we are not full. We will take you."
Earlier this week, Becky Knappenberger, a homeless outreach worker with Volunteers of America Utah, talked to a homeless man at a campsite by the Jordan River who wanted to stay outside to help the other homeless campers. He was sleeping during the day, planning to stay up through the night to brush snow off other people's tents.
The middle-aged man, who lost his job during the recession, requested a snow shovel.
"The people we are seeing, they kind of have storms of their own every day," she said.
Terry Lecompte, 52, knows all too well that sleeping out in the winter is dangerous, having hitchhiked across the country in winter twice.
"Mother Nature has got no mercy, no conscience," he said. "It's man-killing cold out here."
Do you need a place to stay warm on Thanksgiving?
The Weigand Center, 235 S. Rio Grande St., will be open Thursday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Do you wantto donateto the homeless?
Volunteers of America, Utah needs waterproof gloves, hats (in dark colors), sleeping bags, new men's socks, men's winter clothes and winter jackets (size large or higher). Donations can be brought to the organization's office at 511 W. 200 South No. 160 Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. 5:00 p.m. The office is closed Thursday and Friday. For more information, go to http://www.voaut.org or call 801-363-9414.