Deadly winter storm has Houston's homeless weighing options

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the sun set over Houston tonight, homeless men and women faced a tough decision on whether to seek shelter.

Houston Fire Department officials said one homeless person has already died of hypothermia while the city is gripped by a winter storm unlike any in recent memory.

Tonight at the South Main Baptist Church, we met Renata, who has been helping to get others out of the freezing weather.

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Reporter Ted Oberg found homeless Houstonians who are opting not to go to warming centers or shelters, in spite of the deadly conditions outside.

She explained why some homeless Houstonians take issue with going to a warming center, even if it could save their life.

"They're scared they're going to lose their personal belongings, that's all that they have," Renata said.

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There are eight warming centers in Houston to help you get out of the wintry weather.

Fortunately, their belongings will be safe here.

"No rules, no searches, backpacks, you can bring all your personal belongings," Renata said. "Just don't overload the facility, be mindful other people have to come in."

The bitter cold has been especially hard for Houston's homeless population. In fact, paramedics were called to one homeless encampment earlier this afternoon.

Our crew was there as one person was taken to the hospital. There was no immediate word on whether the person's injuries were related to the cold.

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Renata has been helping at the warming center at South Main Baptist Church, and says others should come get out of the elements.

When we asked some homeless men why they insisted on staying outside when they could go to a shelter, one seemed reluctant.

"It's dangerous out here, you know that," reporter Ted Oberg said.

"If they go in, then I'll go in," the man said. "If they can't go in, I can't go in because I need to help them stay warm so they don't be freezing out here, so they don't be hungry out here."

"Can you feel your fingers, feel your toes?" Oberg asked, checking for hypothermia symptoms.

"Now I can, 'cause the fire helped me," the man said, with a laugh. "I couldn't for awhile, though."

In recent weeks, at least two people in homeless encampments like this have died due to the cold.

Renata says she hope no one else has to die.

"This is the coldest night ever, please, get off the streets."

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