Homeless fight the cold in Charlottesville, some with fire

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) — With the temperatures dropping, the homeless in Charlottesville are getting creative.

“I use hand warmers inside my sleeping bag and lots of clothes,” said Robert Heiston, a homeless man in Charlottesville.

“You got to have plenty of blankets and sleeping bags,” explained Flloyd, another homeless man in town. “I mean, you’ve got to stay warm somewhere.”

Heiston and Flloyd have been homeless long enough to know that it takes anything to stay warm.

“I know a couple people that’s lost fingers and toes because they got frost bit,” Heiston recalled.

Some of the homeless find shelters before the sun goes down or when the weather is bad.

“If you don’t get lucky, you go to your tent and sit in your tend all day while it rains,” said Flloyd.

Some homeless people start fires to stay warm.

“We do all that,” said Flloyd. Quickly adding, “Camp.”

While having never started one himself, Heiston noted he has seen people start fires in the past.

“I mean if they have to, they’ll start a fire to stay warm,” he said.

That exact scenario played out Sunday night at the old coal tower near the Downtown Mall.

The Charlottesville Fire Department confirmed three people set some hay bales at the construction site on fire in order to stay warm.

But the fire department says after extinguishing the fire, it did not do much because the three people were transients, hoping to catch a train out of Charlottesville.

Police say it is a unique situation, and usually they will step in to help.

“The local police, city and county, know where our shelters are located and will drive an individual out to us, which is excellent,” said Dawn Grzegorczyk, Executive Director of PACEM. “We want to make sure everyone is safe overnight.”

The Charlottesville Police Department says it does drive some homeless people to certain shelters, but only if they are within the city limits.

Otherwise, police work with the shelters to find warm places for people to stay.

It is a tough life for people living on the brink, which is why the kindness of strangers matters so much to people like Flloyd.

“We have a lot of nice people that help us out here,” Flloyd said. “A whole lot of nice people in Charlottesville and I’d like to say thank you to them.”