Anthony Garrett has some techniques for staying warm in bitter cold weather. After six years of homelessness, he knows the do’s and don’ts.
If he doesn’t get a bed at a homeless shelter — and demand is high in cold weather — Garrett said it’s important to lay his bed out early. On Sunday night, his bed was a wet sleeping bag, and Monday night he was planning to make one out of fresh blankets given to him by Joy Junction driver Diana Peterson-Lane.
“You’ve got to be wrapped up before it’s dark, so your body heat can fill up your blankets,” he said. “If you get out of that warmth, then you’re going to be in trouble.”
Even small tasks are dangerous when temperatures drop, said Garrett, who was bundled in layers of jackets, hats and scarves Monday afternoon as he stood Downtown outside the Albuquerque Rescue Mission.
“Just laying out your (sleeping) bag or packing it up, you risk losing fingers and toes,” he said.
He accepted the warm, dry blankets from Peterson-Lane, who was out on Monday sweeping the city for those in need of a warm place to stay.
Garrett declined a ride, but he sat inside the van for several minutes getting warmed up.
“There’s going to be a lot of deaths this winter if this keeps up,” he said flatly.
Daytime temperatures Monday were in the 20s, but the wind chill made it much colder. The overnight lows were expected to be in the single digits.
Peterson-Lane, who is on call around the clock to pick up homeless people in need, said she started doing sweeps about 9 a.m. Monday and had brought in about 30 people by noon. She drives one of two Joy Junction vans, and when the weather is cold she makes extra runs between Downtown and Joy Junction, on Second Street south of Rio Bravo.
The Albuquerque Police Department’s Crisis, Outreach and Support Team will also be out between 9 p.m. and midnight to pick up those who are out in the weather, and will try to transfer them to the West Side homeless shelter.
Peterson-Lane checked the usual pickup spots, including the rescue mission, Health Care for the Homeless and the transit center. She drove by Civic Plaza, but it was empty.
“They aren’t even hanging out there,” she said. “Uh-uh, too windy.”
On the way back to Joy Junction, she pulled over to pick up Vicki Hayen, who has been staying at the shelter for several weeks. About 1:30 p.m., Hayen had taken a bus to the nearest stop and was pulling a rolling suitcase down Second Street toward the shelter.
As she climbed into the van, Hayen said she had been in town looking for work but was done for the day. She said she looks for work every day, regardless of the weather.
“Every single day, even when it’s cold like this,” she said.
And although Hayen said she was ready to be inside on Monday, she also said she’s seen worse.
“I’m originally from Minnesota, so walking here it’s like, I’m miserable, but it’s not that bad,” she said.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal