A homeless Minnesota man walked nearly 50 miles in sub-zero temperatures trying to find shelter but was fortunately taken in by a compassionate police officer who bought the man a meal and allowed him to spend the night in the police station, KMSP (Minneapolis) is reporting.
As a strong winter weather system batters the country, overnight lows in the Northern Plains have dropped to as low as -15 in some places, including northern Minnesota. And that’s not counting deadly wind chills.
So when Mary Dinger spotted a man lying on the side of the road on Highway 169 between Grand Rapids (Minnesota) and Aitkin, she was alarmed. She ran to the man, made sure he was OK, then let him sit in the back of her car to warm up while she called 911.
“He was a nice man, [about] my age, late 30’s – early 40’s, and his name was Adam. I immediately pulled over and ran to him.”
Adam had been trying to walk from Grand Rapids to Minneapolis — a distance of about 200 miles — to find a homeless shelter. He had made it about 50 miles, as far as Aitkin County, when he couldn’t go any further. He laid down on the ground to try to stay warm. That’s when Mary found him.
Trooper Glen Bihler, who responded to Mary’s 911 call, described what he found.
“She’d let him get in the back of her car, which was fantastic on her part, kind of unheard of to let a stranger get in the back of your car in the middle of nowhere. He had been walking from Grand Rapids since early yesterday morning. And just got to the point where he couldn’t feel his feet anymore.”
An ambulance arrived on the scene. Fortunately, Adam was OK — no signs of hypothermia or frostbite. But he was hungry. Trooper Bihler took the man to McDonald’s and bought him a meal.
“He said he hadn’t eaten since yesterday morning. I think he got a double quarter-pounder with cheese value meal.”
Bihler then took the homeless man to the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the only warm place within miles.
For Mary, who runs an organization that helps the homeless in Aitkin County, the cop’s actions that night went above and beyond the call of duty.
“Was very kind of him, that was beyond his job calling, so I appreciate that, that was wonderful I’m glad he did that.”
According to homeless advocacy organization Hope Mission, winter can be a profoundly dangerous time for the homeless. Frostbite is the most common winter hazard facing the homeless. Because homeless people are often intoxicated or are suffering from mental illness, they may not recognize or respond to symptoms of frostbite (white or pale skin, numbness, and blisters, according to the Mayo Clinic).
Another major winter danger to the homeless is the cold itself. Extreme cold, says Hope Mission, “thickens the blood” and lowers immunity, leading to increased risk of infection or even heart attack.
Hypothermia, that is, prolonged exposure to the cold, is also a severe danger to the homeless. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 1,301 people in the U.S. died of hypothermia each year between 1999 and 2011. Just last week, a 21-year-old Wisconsin woman got drunk at a party and tried to walk home in sub-zero weather in shorts; she was found frozen to death a few hours later, according to KTLA (Los Angeles).
As of this writing, it is not clear what happened to Adam after he spent the night in Aitkin County and if he was able to get to a homeless shelter in Minneapolis or anywhere else.
[Image via Shutterstock/Iakov Kalinin]