At Miriam's Kitchen, Advocate Encourages Outdoor 'Campers' to Come in From Frigid Cold

By Brigid Schulte

At Miriam’s Kitchen, advocate encourages outdoor ‘campers’ to come in from frigid cold (Source: The Washington Post)Bob Glennon eyed the front door to Miriam’s Kitchen with trepidation. As the daily breakfast service for the homeless was about to begin at 6:30 Tuesday morning, after one of the coldest nights in two decades, Glennon was anxious about who would show up. And what it might mean if they didn’t.

Despite his best efforts as a social worker, he knew that some of the regulars, some of the estimated 400 chronically homeless in the District, had chosen to sleep outside in the frigid weather rather than go to an emergency shelter for the night, risking frostbite, hypothermia, exposure and worse.

Glennon had warned them about the unusual cold snap. He had written advisories on the chalkboard in the dining room and made sure everyone had the emergency shelter hotline number.

Still, some of the regulars had brushed him off. “We’ll be all right,” he recalls them saying.

He waited to see if they were right.

“Some of them just have a real street warrior mentality,” Glennon explained. “That sense of ‘This is just what we do.’

Theirs, he said, is a completely different definition of “normal.”

They have their camping spots, their routines. They know how to layer their clothes, stick hand warmers in their shoes and roll up in extra blankets. They know to lay cardboard on top of concrete, asphalt or grass to keep warm. And many of them prefer their freedom and solitude in the cold, whether under tarps on the street or under bridges, to the crowds and chaos of emergency shelters.

Glennon calls them “campers.” And for 15 years, he has worked to get them to come in from the cold. Or at least make sure they’re relatively safe and warm when they don’t.


Source: The Washington Post