Minn. LEO hands out cold weather gear to homeless during big freeze

Over a 48-hour stretch, he handed out more than 100 pairs of donated hats and gloves to people on the streets


Liz Sawyer
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

MINNEAPOLIS — It doesn't take long for Sgt. Grant Snyder to spot those wholly unprepared for the bitter cold.

From the back of his small utility vehicle, the Minneapolis police veteran doles out hats, gloves and blankets to the homeless shivering downtown, plus the occasional cup of hot cocoa.

Sub. Minneapolis Police Sgt. Grant Snyder handed a cup of hot chocolate to Dawone Boclair outside the public library in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday night.
Sub. Minneapolis Police Sgt. Grant Snyder handed a cup of hot chocolate to Dawone Boclair outside the public library in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday night.

"You can just tell suffering when you see it," said Snyder, who's been traveling to homeless hot spots after dark for the past week. "The last two nights, it's been daunting."

Over a 48-hour stretch, he handed out more than 100 pairs of donated hats and gloves to people on the streets — many of whom had nowhere to sleep.

A number of Twin Cities shelters announced they would remain open around the clock, but advocates say the shelter system is insufficient to house everyone who needs it.

That means that once businesses close for the evening, the homeless are forced to wander from place to place in an effort to stay warm.

On Tuesday night, as windchills reached dangerously low temperatures of 50 below, Snyder went searching for the less fortunate. When he came across someone without a hat or proper gloves, he stopped to gently check in.

"If you walk all the way from one side of downtown to the other, you can easily get frostbite in no time in this kind of weather," Snyder said. "Most are more willing to engage and accept help when it's minus 20 than when it's 45 or 50 [degrees]."

Part of his outreach involves asking whether homeless people can feel their hands and feet. If not, a trip to HCMC will be arranged.

Frostbite can affect exposed skin in under 5 minutes. Symptoms include swelling, blistering and discoloration — usually of the fingers, ears and toes. If severe enough, it can result in amputation.

Snyder says the risk for frostbite is ever-present for homeless Minnesotans in winter.

"They live with so much trauma and so much potential danger, that this is just another thing," he said. "But this is never far from their mind."

Snyder will continue patrols on Wednesday, when the Arctic wave is projected to peak around 30 below — that's not counting windchill.

"Nothing really takes the place of wool socks and good, heavy boots," he said.

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©2019 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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