UTAH -- Freezing temperatures are dangerous for everybody across the state, but those who are most at-risk don't have a home to stay warm in.
Members of Salt Lake City’s homeless population who do not reside at any shelter but prefer to go it alone in a tent or other kind of improvised housing are probably the most at-risk during frigid temperatures.
The numbers vary from week-to-week and sometimes day-to-day, but there several people out there who, for whatever reason, avoid the homeless shelters.
The Volunteers of America Outreach Team goes out to places where homeless folks are known to camp to offer a helping hand.
"Yes, people have been very receptive to our teams going out,” said Sandra Hollins of the VOA. “They have been calling us, asking us to come out and either give them a ride in, or calling us and asking us if we can bring them some warm clothing or hand-warmers or, you know, blankets."
Step one is to offer them a ride to a shelter, and if the person doesn't want to go, they are then offered things like warm clothing or a tent or a new sleeping bag.
The VOA does this kind of outreach all year-round, but they said it's during times like these when their services can be lifesaving.
"It’s important to do this because, number one, it is the right thing to do,” Hollins said. “And we want to make sure that everyone is safe for tonight and that no one is freezing to death in the mountains, and we want to make sure that everyone is going to be safe."
So, as their title suggests, this is a volunteer effort which relies heavily on donations and contributions. Cash is always welcome, but right now there's also a critical need for winter clothing items like large-sized boots, gloves, and long underwear.
"It is a big effort and there is a lot of demand, a great demand for us, and we do our best to try to keep up,” Hollins said.
If you see someone camping near your home or business, folks at the VOA say to contact them first and they will come out and assess the situation and get those folks to where they need to be. Hollins said their response is likely what the police will wind up doing anyway if they are called to respond.
You can reach the VOA at 801-631-7584 or online, here.