SALT LAKE CITY — As the sun went down on the first day of 2013, some Utahns found themselves looking for a way to get out of the cold. It's a problem many wish didn't exist, but an everyday reality for the state's homeless population.
Kevin Williams, who has been homeless for 7 ½ years, felt good knowing he'd have a bed Tuesday night at the Road Home shelter, but that hasn't always been the case.
"I slept in the cemetery once, and (the) park and rail station — everything," Williams said.
Like many of his homeless friends, Williams knows there's only one thing he can do when the mercury drops: "Bundle up, that's all there is," he chuckled.
Dar Henderickson of Park City tries to make sure there's plenty to bundle up with. He and his friends have come to Pioneer Park on New Year's Day for the past five years to provide the homeless with a hot meal and a warm coat.
"It kind of started randomly. One year we came down and made some chili and found that people like it," Henderickson said. "So we started bringing some coats. We had maybe three or four coats the first year, and you can see that we've got a bunch of them (this year)."
Extra layers will help keep the homeless keep warm, but Dr. Peter Taillac at University Hospital said poor nutrition and substance abuse often makes them more susceptible to the cold.
We see folks who can't get a shelter bed for some reason; they end up sleeping outside, and they may come in with an extreme injury ... or they may come in hypothermic and actually very, very critically ill sometimes.
–Dr. Peter Taillac, University Hospital
"We see them every year," Taillac said. "We see folks who can't get a shelter bed for some reason; they end up sleeping outside, and they may come in with an extreme injury — like a frost bite-type injury — or they may come in hypothermic and actually very, very critically ill sometimes."
Anthony Washington said he's come close to freezing to death during his decade on the streets. He believes it's a position anyone could find themselves in.
"Once you lose your job or something goes wrong in your lifetime, you'll be right where we are," he said.
That's something Dar Hendrickson always keeps in mind.
"I feel blessed and lucky that what I have, and what we have as a family, we're able to be in a position to do this," he said. "It makes you appreciate what you have."
According to the most recent estimates, more than 16,000 Utahns were homeless at some point between January 2011 and January 2012, though the majority weren't living on the street.