CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Five people died from winter-related deaths in the past five days, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner.
Since Feb. 1, seven people have been killed by winter weather, making this the most fatal two-week period since 2009, the release said.
In 2020, only one person died over the same period.
Most of the deaths were suffered in environments where there was no working heat, according to the medical examiner.
“There has been a spike in cold-related deaths, particularly in the last week. Most of these individuals lacked working heat in their residence,” a press release stated. “The county can assist with this issue and other programs related to the cold. Please check on older neighbors, especially those who may be more isolated due to the pandemic.”
Chris Knestrick is the Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, “From everything we’ve heard none of the folks were quote, unquote homeless at the time when they died. They were folks that had housing, but not adequate and safe housing obviously. They didn’t have heat.”
Caught between the safety protocols of the pandemic and the frigid air of a polar vortex, some fear they have nowhere to shelter from winter’s storms.
That’s why Knestrick tells 19 News, he has teams that reach out to rescue those living on the streets, working to find somewhere safe and warm for them to lay their head at night, “Working really hard through street outreach services to make sure people don’t freeze to death during this winter weather.”
But shelters are available for anyone who needs them. “I recognize shelters are not ideal. But they’re available, and they’re warm and if you are having a housing crisis – and need shelter you should reach out,” Knestrick said.
Shelters in the Cleveland area that include: Lutheran Men’s Shelter at 2100 Lakeside in Cleveland, the Norma Herr Women’s Center 2227 Payne Avenue, or you can call 211, the United Way’s services hotline.
But Knestrick warns don’t let social distancing take away your humanity, when someone may desperately need you. Check on the elderly, and your friends and neighbors to make sure they’re staying warm.
The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless says they have worked with other agencies to make sure shelters are less crowded, and the result is that COVID-19 has not been widespread in the shelter system in any way, shape or form.
Cuyahoga County does have resources for those in need:
- 2-1-1: Community referral line to get information about social, health, housing resources
- Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP): Residents may call the Division of Senior and Adult Services for assistance to complete the HEAP application, 216-420-6700
- Office of Homeless Services
- HEAP Winter Crisis Program
- Winter Reconnect Order