Posted: Dec 8, 2009 8:50 PM by John Romero
As we enter another day of sub zero temperatures, many homeless will flock to local shelters to get out of the cold. But not all of them do. "Everyday we run into numerous people that are either highly intoxicated or obviously have been drinking quite a bit." says Officer M.J. Thompson, he's part of the CSPD's Homeless Outreach Team.
Those battling alcohol addictions can have a hard time getting into a shelter for the night. Many drink even more to escape the numbing cold. "They kind of self medicate. They don't get their own medications. They start drinking and they go farther down." explains Officer Dan McCormeck, also part of the HOT team, "This time of year they're using it a lot to try to stay warm. Of course that's closing down their body even more. So we're seeing a lot more use but it's kind of making the problem worse." Thompson agrees, "It makes them very vulnerable and if they do pass out or fall down, they can very easily die from exposure."
The CSPD Homeless Outreach Team does what they can to get those who are drinking into programs. But those programs require commitments. Like so many other addicts many of our cities homeless aren't ready to make that step. "It's got to be on their own timing. Like the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." says HOT team member Officer Brett Iverson, "So until they're ready and they want to do it, we can't force them to get into those services. But we encourage them every day." United Way Director Bob Holmes has his own idea of how to deal with the alcohol problem. He's proposing a sober bed system where homeless who had been drinking could get picked up and taken to a shelter to sober up for the night.