Local residents get a glimpse at what it’s like to be homeless in the winter

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s a cold February morning; the pavement’s frozen with ice, the air’s cold with frost.

Most of us only have to bear the brutal winter for short periods of time, but imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t escape the cold.

More than 150 volunteers participated in the Springfield Rescue Mission’s “Coldest 5K Walk/Run” on Saturday, to get a better idea of what it’s like to be homeless during the cold, winter months.

Susan Martinez ran in Saturday’s 5K. She told 22News the experience doesn’t compare to what homeless people have to go through every day. “I’m only out here for 40 minutes, but they’re out here for days, and weeks, and months at a time. You see these people, and it just breaks your heart because you know their circumstances are different than yours. You can go home, but they can’t,” she said.

Participants walked from the Rescue Mission on Mill Street to the emergency shelter on Taylor Street and back.

Linda Edwards said the difference is many homeless people have to make the trip every day, without gloves, jackets, or scarves. “We were just saying we’re all a little embarrassed to be out here in our many layers of clothing; we don’t have to worry about what we’re going to wear,” she said.

Clothing, food, and shelter are some of the biggest concerns for the homeless, especially when the temperature drops, and cold-related illnesses spike.

Scott Sherman told 22News he first witnessed homelessness 20-year- ago, while working in New York. He said the memories have stuck with him ever since. “I got to see firsthand people who were really suffering on the street, without clothes, their feet exposed with wounds,” he said.

The Springfield Rescue Mission offers the homeless with daily breakfast, emergency shelter, and a variety of clothing year-round.

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