Arctic cold especially tough on the homeless

CHICAGO – At 1 p.m., the thermometer climbed back to zero for the first time in 36 hours. But in his nook under Michigan Avenue, Stephen Bryant wasn't celebrating.

"It's rough. It's really, really rough," said Bryant.

One of more than 100,000 homeless people in Chicago, Bryant has lived on the streets for 11 years and is weathering the extremely cold weather under nine blankets.

"But you can't stay under 'em all the time, because you got to go out, panhandle to try to get food or whatever," Bryant said.

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Homeless shelters are filling up as extreme cold grips much of the country.
CBS News
 He said he feels safer on the street. But others, motivated by self-preservation, are flocking to shelters.

"Last night we had 1,081 individuals, which in our history we've never had before," said Phil Kwiatkowski, who runs the Pacific Garden Mission.

"There are certain homeless individuals that may try to brave it outside under a bridge or in a car, but when elements are like they were last night it is life and death, and it forces them to come into a shelter," Kwiatkowsi said.

Floyd Pilkington just arrived in Chicago from Mississippi. He's looking for work and a place to stay.

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Floyd Pikington says sleeping in his car got very cold.
CBS News
 "We spent two nights in the car when we first got here," Pilkington said, adding that it was very cold on those nights.

In Chicago, authorities are allowing the shelters to stay open 24 hours, instead of the usual 12. And right now they are operating at 96 percent capacity.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.

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