Cold weather believed responsible for deaths of 2 homeless people, chief says

By Brittany Taylor - Digital News Editor, Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

HOUSTON - Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said Tuesday he believes that two homeless people died because of exposure to freezing temperatures.

Police said the first body was found around 7 a.m. in the 300 block of Richmond Avenue. Two hours later, police said the second body was discovered under the Highway 59 underpass near the 100 block of Richmond Avenue. 

In a tweet, Acevedo asked for the public's help to assist organizations, like Homeless Outreach Team & Patrol, to get the homeless population to seek shelter.

The coldest night of the season, thus far, is expected Tuesday night. Temperatures will drop into the lower 20s in Houston.

The Houston Red Cross opened a temporary Warming Center from 8 p.m. Tuesday until 8 a.m. Wednesday for those in need of a warm place to stay overnight.

The center has been set up in the Recreation Center at South Main Baptist Church, located at 200 Colquitt St., between Main Street and Highway 59 in Midtown.

Meanwhile, HPD's Homeless Outreach Team has been going out delivering blankets to those experiencing homelessness. 

"Often they don't have anywhere else to go. And usually they prefer to stay out on the streets, but when it gets so cold and you have such frigid temperatures that are in the 20s and below freezing they can risk hypothermia," said Lt. Patrick Plourde with HPD's Mental Health Division.

He said officers are instructed to encourage those experiencing homelessness to go inside. Officer Gerardo Alaniz said the temperatures are brutal, but the biggest challenge is encouraging the homeless to leave the streets.

"It's so cold. We just want to make sure they get blankets. He can't make them go to the shelters with us but at least we can give assistance."

Robert Davis Jr. has found hope and is trying to rebuild his life at the Star of Hope. There at the men's center at 1811 Ruiz St., there are 60-80 spaces for men seeking shelter from the cold.

The Star of Hope has opened its doors all night because of the cold.

The Star of Hope's women's and family center is at capacity but those who in need of help can call 713-924-6126.

"On the good side -- you can get some help. On the bad side -- you can give up and don't care. It's cold out here. Reach out and tell someone that you're cold," Davis Jr. said.

Anyone who needs to be taken to a warming center or shelter should call 311. Free rides will be available.

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