Rescue Mission helps homeless survive bitter cold nights

James Williamson is bundled up and counting his winter layers, ahead of a bone chilling night in Syracuse.

Temperatures were well below freezing Tuesday night but Williamson is no stranger to battling Central New York's bitter cold nights. He's slept on these streets for the last 27 years. "I don't have a lot of layers, I use my breath to keep me warm. Stay covered with something that you know will keep the coldness off of you," said Williamson.

Almost every night, the Rescue Mission checks in on Williamson. They drop off food, drinks and warm blankets, all the essentials for him to survive. And they always offer, a warm place to sleep. Tuesday, like every other night, he says no thanks.

"They're very reclusive--they don't like to be with other people," said Charles Semple with the Rescue Mission. "Of course we'd like to see these men come in, and be rehabilitated. But this is the least that we can do. Go out and look for them."

By now, Semple knows where to look. He drives the Rescue Mission's Homeless Intervention Services or HIS van 5 nights a week, checking on a handful of homeless men. During the day, the van brings people from local shelters to legal, medical, employment and housing appointments.

While many of the men who live outside, prefer to stay outside despite freezing temperatures. Bitter cold nights cause crowded shelters. The Rescue Mission was at capacity Tuesday night, filling 120 beds.

"There are individuals in our community who don't have a place of their own tonight where they can be warm and safe. So we want to provide that for them. We want to help them gain that stability back,"said Matt Crawford with the Rescue Mission.

And hope they'll warm up to the idea that the rescue mission can get them out of the cold and back on track.

The Rescue Mission needs your help to help others in our community. For information on how to donate or volunteer, click here.