A 27 News reporter Wednesday spoke through the canvas of a tent in a wooded area on the city’s east side with a man identified only as Stan.
“I’m seventy years old,” Stan said, also identifying himself as veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.
“I’m covered, I’m good for forty below and much colder and no problem,” Stan says.
Porchlight, Inc. outreach worker Ben Jackson visited Stan and provided him with a camp stove. During this near-record cold stretch, Jackson has been making contact with a number of people living in tents in secluded areas, providing with them with small, tent-appropriate propane heaters, blankets and other supplies.
Jackson tells 27 News the lifestyle carries significant risk.
“When you come up to a tent and discovered it was (under) snow, you look inside and you hope you don’t find a body,” Jackson says.
Jackson says tent dwellers can be dealing with a number of different personal issues. He encourages them to consider more traditional shelter during these weather conditions.
“It’s a slow progression of trust because these people really don’t trust anyone,” Jackson says.
Stan tells 27 News he receives veteran’s benefits.
“God provides this wonderful, wonderful paradise for me to live in for almost next to nothing,” he says. “Frees up all my money. I can help out those who need it more than I do.”
Jackson says the provision of supplies to these people living off the grid is supported by Madison’s First United Methodist Church. The Church is also providing additional day shelter space for the city during this bitter, cold snap.
A 28-year old man known as Magic tells 27 News he appreciates the warm respite of the church after being victimized on the streets in the sub-zero temperatures.
“Somebody stole my jacket and my backpack and I had a tee shirt on and a pair of pants,” Magic says. “I went into a hotel entry way and just sat there.”
First United day shelter organizer Karen Andro says the commitment of an army of volunteers – including teachers whose school buildings are closed as a result of the cold – have made it possible to host more than seventy-five people a day, including many children.
Shuttle buses are provided to ferry people from First United and the city’s established day shelter The Beacon to overnight shelter space at the Salvation Army.