[Hpn] Homeless Man May Have Frozen To Death

William C. Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 18 Jan 2005 07:59:11 -0500


Tue, Jan. 18, 2005

Homeless man, 47, may have frozen to death


The Wichita Eagle

Wichita police were trying to determine the cause of death of a homeless man
whose body was found Monday in a van parked behind a home in the 1700 block
of South Waco.
Police said the man, who was 47, was found shortly before noon in a van
owned by an acquaintance who allowed him to spend his nights there.
Police said the coroner would have to determine whether the man died of
exposure or a medical condition. Neighbors said it was not uncommon for the
man to sleep in the van when he had no place else to stay.
The temperature Sunday night in Wichita dipped to 16 degrees.
Several people who work with the area's homeless population said the man
probably could have found a bed in a shelter.
Jerry Wills, the house manager at Inter-Faith Inn, 320 E. Central, said the
50 beds in his shelter have been filled nearly to capacity in recent days,
but said shelter workers would squeeze a few more people inside during an
It wasn't the first time a Wichita homeless person has been found dead
outside in the cold, Wills said.
"It doesn't happen too often, but it has been known to happen," he said.
Several years ago, a homeless person had to have his feet amputated because
of severe frostbite caused by the cold, Wills said.
Tim Brown, spokesman for the Salvation Army, which operates an overflow
homeless shelter in Wichita, said about 85 of that shelter's 100 beds have
been occupied in recent days. He said he didn't think anybody would be
turned away during extremely cold weather.
"We not going to turn them out on a night like this," he said. "It's just
too cold."
About 150 single men have been staying at the Union Rescue Mission at 2800
N. Hillside in recent days, executive director Marsha Stanyer said.
"In these kind of conditions, I don't know of any shelter that would turn
anybody away," she said. "I've got to believe that even if we were at
capacity, with these conditions, we wouldn't turn anybody away."
Stanyer said the shelter has on occasion gone out and picked up someone who
was stranded outside in extremely cold weather. Wichita police routinely
drop men off at the shelter during the winter months, she said.
Stanyer said about 700 people in Wichita have no permanent address, though
many of those people do have places to live. About 15 percent of the
homeless, she estimated, shun the shelters and choose to live outdoors.
"I know that there are a few out there that just don't like some of the
rules and regulations," she said.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.