How Many Homeless People Will Freeze To Death This Winter?

How Many Homeless People Will Freeze To Death This Winter?

This post first appeared at ThinkProgress. Levi Cummings didn’t die of old age. He didn’t die in an accident, and he wasn’t murdered. Cummings died because he was homeless. He likely froze to death — the state medical examiner must still officially release the cause of death — last Thursday, a victim of the polar vortex and of his inability to afford a place to stay. Cummings left behind his main companion, a dog named Baby Girl, and a bevy of goodwill in the community. “He was the kindest, sweetest man you ever met,” Glenn Blankenship, director of the Shawnee Rescue Mission, told the Shawnee News-Star. Cummings’ death, like those of all homeless people who die from the cold, was preventable. However, he had the unfortunate luck of living in Shawnee, Oklahoma, a city ThinkProgress previously profiled as the worst city in America to be homeless. There should have been another shelter in Shawnee for people like Cummings, but the privately funded project was scrapped by the City Commission, whose chief owned numerous houses nearby and worried what would happen to his property values. There are currently 578,424 homeless people living in the United States, a third of whom have no shelter at all. As temperatures start to fall across the country, they are an extremely vulnerable population, even in areas of the country that don’t regularly see freezing temperatures like Oklahoma and California. More could soon suffer Cummings’s fate. For example, seven homeless people died last year in California during a brutal three-week stretch as temperatures in the normally temperate Bay Area dropped to near freezing. Despite the spate of deaths, Santa Clara County officialsclosed the only local cold-weather...