Homeless in Austin brace for cold - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Homeless in Austin brace for cold

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It's very cold out there, and yes, there are shelters available for the homeless.

However, some just don't want to go. So they end up either in the back of a police car or an ambulance.

Tshakalisa Khupe doesn't know where he'll be sleeping Friday night.

"I'm not sure yet. I like to sleep outside, but it's illegal to sleep outside," Khupe said

He is right. Austin city ordinance prevents camping in public places, like the alley on Brazos in downtown. It's a popular spot for the homeless because it's warm.

Austin Police later confirmed with FOX 7 there were some arrests made in the alley Thursday night.

Khupe said he was one of them. So he said he spent the night in jail.

Even though there are shelters available, he says he prefers sleeping on the streets.

"It makes me stronger! It makes me stronger, I get to read the Bible, I get my freedom. In there, they tell us when to go to bed! What's the point of being free if you're not free," Khupe said.

Jessica Burkemper with Front Steps said when it gets below 32 degrees, or if it's below 35 with wind and rain, the city activates their cold shelter plan.

"We have churches that participate with us and there's a different church every night of the week that supplies extra beds to our men and women," Burkemper said.

She said if more beds are needed, the city will open up a rec center.

Still, some just don't want to go inside.

"Throughout the night, our staff will actually continue to go outside to anyone who is around our building and invite them inside. We'll intentionally leave extra spaces at the ARCH," she said.

Mark Karonika with Austin-Travis County EMS says they encourage the homeless to find shelter before the cold hurts them. But they've got blankets and heaters ready to go just in case.

"The bottom line is when people are cold, our call volume goes up. We're gonna be going to the hospitals more often, the hospitals are gonna get filled up pretty quick and we still have to deal with the other 400 plus calls that we're gonna have that we get everyday. So we're prepared for it," Karonika said.

Khupe said he hasn't been to a shelter in months but that may change.

"Well I'm going to have to because the only other inside that I ever see is the jail cell! And I guess I have to choose which freedom I want right?" Khupe said.

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