Donations help people forced to live in car

Donations help people forced to live in car

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SALT LAKE CITY — As dangerous as it may be, there are people who have no choice but to live in their cars during these extremely cold temperatures.

Some firefighters are trying to give these people more supplies to battle the elements, but they're asking for more help.

Unified Fire Authority Capt. Fitzgerald Petersen has been collecting donations that are dropped off at fire stations throughout Salt Lake County for 21 years. He takes those items to people at shelters in Midvale, and at St. Vincent de Paul's in Salt Lake City.

However, he also has to deliver a lot of these goods to people who are staying in their cars. He said a lot of people underestimate how hard it will be to stay warm.

"Unless you've done it before, you're going to be enlightened to how difficult and dangerous it is to be out there in those elements," he said.

Over the years, Petersen has gotten to know several people who chronically have to stay in their cars overnight. He offers them things like blankets and jackets, if he has them to give. But not everyone will accept these donations.

Body found
Investigators think cold temperatures may have had a role in the death of a man found unresponsive in his car.

He was found in a running vehicle Monday at a salvage yard where he worked near 4300 West and 700 South in Salt Lake City, police said. They believe he may have been living in the car but aren't exactly sure how he died.

"We've had some terrible temperatures, so what they thought was adequate may not be adequate," he said.

Plus, the vehicles can't always be used as a source of heat.

"These people aren't living in their cars because they can afford to run them all night. They're typically not running them at all," Petersen said.

He said people have been generous with their donations of warm clothes and blankets, but he's hoping more people can also donate toiletries, like toothpaste and soap.

"There is just a lot of opportunity for flu within these populations," he explained. "A lot of these people get very sick, and to be sick in these temperatures is deadly."

If you'd like to contribute you can donate at your nearest fire station.

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Paul Nelson


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