Some homeless refuse police, shelter help in bitter cold - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Some homeless refuse police, shelter help in bitter cold

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MADISON (WKOW) -- In the frigid weather, shelter resources for Madison's homeless are more important than ever, but the help is not always welcomed.

Madison police on patrol this week are keeping an eye out for those attempting to sleep on the streets in the bitter cold. Officers are encouraging the homeless to stay at a shelter, offering rides there and warm clothes or blankets.
 
Lt. Kelly Donahue says it's heartbreaking to see some turn down the assistance.
 
"As much as we encourage it, for various reasons that they sometimes share and sometimes don't share, they're not comfortable going to the shelter and choose to be outside even in these extremes," says Donahue.
 
27 News went out on patrol with Donahue on Monday night, as temperatures dropped to 18 below with added wind chills. People huddled under blankets on the cold sidewalks declined help.
 
Preston Patterson, director of Porchlight's drop-in men's shelter, says some who refuse a place to stay have mental health issues, and face anxiety or safety fears in the shelter. 
 
"They just don't feel comfortable being inside the shelter," Patterson says. "Some people-- no matter how cold it is-- they refuse to come into the shelter."
 
Patterson tells 27 News that Porchlight takes every effort to ensure safety in the shelters, including keeping a staff member on duty at all times.
 
While some turn down a bed, many more embrace the help. Sunday night, 130 people checked in at the drop-in shelter. In just the first hour and a half after the doors opened Monday night, 90 had already registered to stay the night.
 
Doug Porteous has stayed at Porchlight in recent weeks. He's started helping out and volunteering at the shelter and is grateful for the roof over his head in this weather.
 
"The wind just chills you all the way through. It doesn't matter how many layers of clothes, it's cold," says Porteous. "If it wasn't for [Porchlight], a lot of us wouldn't have anything."
 
Porteous has been homeless for nearly a year and hopes to get back on his feet and leave the shelter soon.
 
Porchlight is always accepting donations. Right now, the organization is most in need of boots and socks to keep people warm. Donations can be dropped off at the Hospitality House on Martin Street. 
 
Porchlight offers emergency shelter to single men only, but families and women can stay at the Salvation Army's shelters overnight too. 
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