CHICAGO (CBS) — Another day of dangerous cold was gripping the Chicago area on Wednesday, as temperatures were not expected to rise above the single digits.
The official temperature in Chicago dropped to 3 below zero at O’Hare International Airport by 4 a.m., with wind chills near 20 below. Some suburbs saw temperatures as low as 13 below, and wind chills of more than 25 below. The high in Chicago was expected to reach only about 8 degrees on Wednesday.
Community activist Andrew Holmes spent Tuesday night outside with the homeless at a tent city along the Dan Ryan Expressway. Holmes said he wanted to draw attention to their plight, and to raise awareness about the need for more resources to help the city’s homeless population.
Holmes said it’s the sixth year he has joined the homeless in subzero weather.
“I bring awareness, because the problem has not been solved,” he said.
Holmes said shelters need to have mental health counselors and job-training programs, and permanent housing must be found for the homeless.
“We have a rodent problem in the city. We put all the effort and the money there to get the rodents off the streets. Now let’s get the homeless off the streets, and get them a safe facility,” he said.
Holmes arrived at the exposed embankment along the Dan Ryan near Roosevelt Road around 8 p.m. Tuesday, when temperatures were around 3 degrees, and the windchill was around 14 below zero.
At least a dozen people call the embankment home. Without proper clothes or shelter, there could be dangerous consequences from prolonged exposure to such dangerous cold.
After spending the night covered with just a white blanket, and using a second blanket tied to a tree to block the wind, Holmes said the 10 hours in the extreme cold were “brutal.”
“They need a lot of help out here. They need to have first-hand to apartments, first-hand to health facilities. Legislators and elected officials need to come out here, lay down and sleep to see how they feel,” he said. “A lot of work needs to be done. Even though we have people bringing food out here, clothing, comforters, and covers; that’s just putting a Band-Aid over a big old wound that’s still open. There needs to be a lot done from a state level to the city level to get them off the streets.”
While several shelters are available to the homeless, their beds fill up quickly, and many feel safer outside.
The city also offers several warming shelters during such extreme cold, but most are open only during the day. The Department of Family and Support Services operates six warming centers on work weekdays. Five of them are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the Garfield Center at 10 S. Kedzie Av. is open 24 hours a day.
While Thursday and Friday will bring a small measure of relief from the extreme cold, with temperatures in the upper teens to low 20s, they also will bring more chances for snow, before a return of bitter cold on Saturday.
Temperatures are expected to remain well below freezing across the Chicago area until late next week.