‘It can be heartbreaking:’ Volunteers search Milwaukee’s streets for homeless in bitter cold

MILWAUKEE -- Medical experts and volunteers stepped up efforts Wednesday, Jan. 30 to make sure those who are homeless in the Milwaukee area were safe from the bitter cold. In at least one case, police had to use force to keep someone safe.

Those with Street Angels, Inc., a homeless outreach organization, braved the bitter cold to search for those in need. Some were still out on the street, convinced they'd be able to brave the cold.

Mary Ann Patti

"They don't necessarily have an accurate read of what the temperature is. If you ask someone, they don't think it's as cold outside as it is," said Mary Ann Patti, program manager with Community Advocates.

Those with Community Advocates' Homeless Outreach Nursing Center were among the people working to help the homeless through the polar vortex.

"We'll be targeting people that we know are reluctant to come inside and historically don't do well in shelter, and we wanna check on people's well-being," said Patti.

Volunteers provided food and warm clothing, while urging people to seek shelter.

"It's taking time and building a trusting relationship. Many of the people we work with are very suspicious," said Patti.

Police detained at least one person who was found to be a threat to himself -- refusing to come in from the cold. He was transferred to a mental health facility.

Patti and those working with her are medical professionals. They work in conjunction with police.

"It can be really heartbreaking when somebody is so vulnerable," said Patti.

Many of those who are homeless struggle with mental health issues.

"They just can't trust enough that somebody can really be there to assist them," said Patti.

If you or someone you know is in need of shelter, CLICK HERE to search for warming sites by ZIP code, or dial 211.

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