Homeless search for ways to survive freezing temperatures

Braving the cold in southern Arizona

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - There’s not enough room in Tucson to shelter all the homeless from the freezing temperatures, which are expected to last about a week.

That means many of the 1,500 to 2,000 homeless will sleep in the cold. Some of them choose too do that though, rather than seek shelter.

“This weather can kill you if you ain’t smart,” said Steven Brazil, a 37-year-old homeless man from Tyler, Texas. “I know I’ll make it because I have the smarts.”

A carpenter by trade, a three-year Army vet, he lost his seven year construction job and hasn’t been able to find full time work since.

“I used to have things and I lost everything," he said. “In the blink of an eye, pretty much in one day.”

On his way to Phoenix, Brazil ended up instead in Tucson where he lives in a culvert near the river bed.

“I built a table that’s three foot off the ground,” he said “I hope it’s dry.”

He pushes a shopping cart containing a half dozen blankets along the Santa Cruz walkway.

“Everything I had was stolen,” he said. “I look at this cart, the blankets, it kind of chokes up a little bit.”

As he thinks about where he was and where he is now he says “I know my colors are better than this.”

He begs for dollars along Interstate 10 at 22nd Street, holding a cardboard sign which says “It’s not a con job. I’m really homeless and hungry.”

His second concern, surviving the night, where the temperature is expected to drop into the high 20s.

“I learned if you put about seven or eight blankets on you, if you don’t move around a lot, you can stay warm,” he said.

But keeping the blankets in this weather is hard because there is so much theft. That’s one reason he pushes them around on a shopping cart, draped in another blanket to break the chill.

Brazil could also likely score a bed at a shelter, but he says it doesn’t fit who he is. He doesn’t have anything against shelters but he doesn’t care for them too much.

“I’m just one of those independent people who likes being by myself,” he said. “Big groups make me nervous a little bit.”

So he will rely on what he knows to stay warm.

“Small thing,” he said. “You got to stay hydrated to stay warm,”

That’s something most people on the street don’t understand, he believes.

“You’ve got to know ahead of time about weather, how much you might need and how much you can handle,” he said.

The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates 700 die from the cold every year.

And that’s something Brazil seeks to avoid.

“If my toes start stinging too much, if I’ve got eight layers of blankets and I’m too cold, I can still be warm enough to hike my butt to rescue,” he said.

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