Freezing to Death: Homeless Bodies Found Frozen Across America

freezing to death, homeless bodies found frozen to death

Weather-related illnesses and bouts of hypothermia have shocked the country from coast to coast. Even in places considerably less susceptible to the cold, staggering winter winds claimed 3x more lives than Hurricane Harvey. Meanwhile, the lifeless bodies of Alaskan homeless people froze to death on their way to warming centers. This piece emphasizes the brutal realities of freezing to death, dispelling misconceptions and urging readers to reflect on the plight of the homeless population, emphasizing the urgent need for systemic change and affordable housing as essential human rights.


Will Homeless People Freezing to Death Outdoors Wake Us Up Enough to Finally Care?

Trigger Warning: The following article contains graphic descriptions of real-life instances when homeless people were found frozen to death outside. 

Fox Weather recently referred to the chilling arctic blasts gaining traction across the country as “deadly cold.” Tragically, for the homeless population, that is not an overstatement but a painfully accurate description.

Weather-related illnesses and bouts of hypothermia have shocked the country from coast to coast. Even in places considerably less susceptible to the cold, like Texas, staggering winter winds claimed 3x more lives than Hurricane Harvey when a sudden temperature drop wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, beneath the thick and frozen snow, which fell at the record-breaking rate of 100+ inches per week, lie the lifeless bodies of local homeless people who froze to death on their way to the warming centers.

Anchorage advocate Kevin Dahlgren posted a grim picture on X, the platform previously known as Twitter. It showed a blanket frozen solid, draped in a ghostly white dusting of snowflakes, twisted into the shape of a sleeping human, and in case you were wondering, that’s just what it was.

“There is a person under there,” Kevin explained in the caption. “The blanket was near frozen solid. A block away was a coroner picking up a body. We must do better.”

As of February 2024, at least 49 homeless people have frozen to death on the streets of Alaska this calendar year alone, a number that represents more than double that of the previous year.

Here’s What Happens to the Body When You Freeze to Death

Nobody deserves to die on the streets of one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But to be buried beneath the blistering snow, your lifeless body only visible beneath the blanket that froze against your frost-covered skin like glue is unfathomable.

There is a misconception that implies that freezing to death is a peaceful process. However, the polar opposite of this is true.

When someone freezes to death, their organs are the first to shut down, followed by malfunctions in the heart. The body will try to combat the inevitable fatal outcome by shivering. If that doesn’t work and the body temperature falls beneath 95 degrees Fahrenheit, mental confusion and amnesia will start to take their toll on the brain.

This process gives way to paranoid hallucinations once the body’s temperature reaches 88 degrees, which, incidentally, is the temperature that causes a loss of bladder control and muscle malfunction. So, as a person starts to freeze to death, they become paranoid and paralyzed, and they often urinate on themselves before collapsing into imminent death.

Is this really a fate we would wish on our unhoused neighbors or anyone at all, for that matter?

Are We So Cold as To Wish This on Our Houseless Neighbors? A Look at Chilling Deaths Nationwide

The aforementioned weather-driven death is one of many to take place within the homeless community between 2023 and 2024. And now, as the cold thaws and the consequences of having no safe place to call home are fully realized, it is time we find reflection in the frost.

It is time that we reflect on the life and death of 41-year-old Trent Tuttle, who was found frozen to death between the walls of a condemned two-story building in Belleville, Illinois.

It is time that we reflect on the lives and deaths of the unidentified Philadelphia couple who died inside a box truck while trying to get warm. 

It is time we reflect on the unnamed 35-year-old man who died of hypothermia in Palisades Park.

It is time we reflect on the 20 homeless deaths that happen each day, in the rain and snow, in the heat and cold, on the sidewalks, and in the subways, stark and nameless, young and old.

The United States Doesn’t Have to Be So Cold. Talk to Your Legislators About Warming Up to Housing.

No matter the season, there will always be a new and looming threat posing problems in the homeless community. From the prospect of freezing to death to the possibility of collapsing into a heat stroke to the ongoing attacks, arrests, and robberies.

So many ills plague the homeless community, and so many trials have emerged. Imagine if the truth was warmer because housing was a human right for all. Talk to your legislators about making that vision a reality.


Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith

     

Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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