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How the homeless are faring post-blizzard

Published On: Dec 22 2012 10:56:18 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 23 2012 01:52:21 PM CST

Channel3000.com file photo

MADISON, Wis. -

What looks like a winter wonderland to many is a living nightmare for some of the area’s homeless.

Franjo Majstorich is among the campers at Token Creek Park. He said more than a dozen people have been digging out tents Friday and Saturday in order to get their temporary homes back up and livable once again.

"To add the harsh weather out here, it's like, it's primitive. It's living primitive," Majstorich explained.

Majstorich said only three people braved the storm when it hit. The others, including him and his girlfriend, found indoor space to stay.

Just because the tents are above the snow doesn't mean the work is done.

"Staying dry, having enough water. Our food tent, a tree collapsed on it," Majstorich said.

At the new warming shelter on East Washington Avenue, more than 120 people came in and out of the facility to escape the blizzard Thursday. That’s about average for the shelter, but workers like Nathaniel Abrahams, Jr. know just how tough the winter can be for those without a home.

"I was homeless for seven years myself," Abrahams said, "and I've lost quite a few friends out here."

Abrahams is looking forward to a permanent shelter, and said so far, different organizations have pitched in to provide food and extra clothes for those who need it.

"It's only so long that you can stay out there in the elements," Abrahams added.

Transportation is another obstacle some of the area's homeless face with this kind of storm. Shelter director Sarah Gillmore said when big snow shuts down the buses, all many people have is their own two feet. She said that can be particularly difficult when someone is trying to hold a job.

"People who don't have vehicles [are] just relying on public transportation, and when it doesn't run for two days, this is a huge drawback and people ended up feeling stranded, or ended up spending what little money they do have for a cab or something just to move around," Gillmore said.

Gillmore added the shelter is primarily in need of month-long bus passes, as well as adult socks and underwear. Volunteers, she said, are always in demand. Those able to help out should call 608-371-WARM for more information.

When asked why campers didn’t seek other shelter, Majstorich said there is not enough affordable, fair housing opportunities, and added the group would rather be out in the elements than face some of the challenges that shelter life brings.

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