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A recent tragedy in Butte shows the dangers homeless people face in the winter



Butte, Montana – Imagine living in a concrete culvert these days, especially with the recent frigid temps. Evidently, someone did. That is, until recently, when cops discovered him dead inside, probably from exposure. And more residents of Butte might share this fate given the forecast for additional frigid temperatures.

“It’s been real bad. The last couple days have been real cold. I was out the other night, it was so cold it was miserable. You know, people are freezing out here. Something’s got to be done,” said Claude Vail, who says he is regularly homeless in Butte.

The autopsy report on the 36-year-old homeless guy who was discovered dead in a culvert on November 26 is being awaited by Butte police. Anyone who cannot find refuge in the extreme cold risks death.

“When it gets to be 10, 15 below zero, even 40 below zero before the winter’s over, there’s just no forgiveness in the conditions and the elements, so if a person is attempting to live in a culvert or a tent, the danger just goes way up there,” said Butte Sheriff Ed Lester.

Due to the cold, the Butte Rescue Mission’s emergency shelter has recently been full.

“So every night it’s kind of a challenge. It’s first come, first serve. Check-in is at 4:30, so we’re trying to make sure everybody’s got a warm place to stay for the night,” said Director of the Butte Rescue Mission Braydon Erickson.

Even if there isn’t space, the shelter nevertheless provides free winter clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags to keep people warm. When the temperature is 10 degrees or lower, the shelter is open all day. The most recent passing serves as a reminder of the shelter’s necessity.

“That is tragic, you know, we don’t want to see anybody getting hurt and we don’t want to see anybody suffering. We want to be a soft landing where somebody can come. They can get on their feet, so to speak, they don’t have to be out in the elements,” said Erickson.

Winter clothes and blanket contributions are accepted by the shelter.

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