WICKER PARK — The brutally cold weather has prompted many homeless people to seek overnight shelter, but a 55-year-old man who is a familiar face in Wicker Park said he prefers to sleep outdoors.
Pushing his shopping cart through Wicker Park's namesake park, 1425 N. Damen Ave., around 7 a.m. Friday, Marcus Faletti said that he spent the night sleeping outdoors at a nearby location.
"I don't like shelters. They throw you out at 6 a.m. The alderman took me to a shelter last year but I am not doing that again," Faletti said.
Alisa Hauser says shelters were packed this week:
Wearing two heavy coats, including one he got at a grassroots pop-up shopping event in the park last month, Faletti said he would prefer to stay outdoors where he has more freedom.
Faletti slept inside of one sleeping bag, with another sleeping bag layered on top of it, along with two comforters. "When I'm layered up, I'm OK," he said.
He said he has not been drinking alcohol. "When you drink in this weather, that's when you die," explained Faletti, who said he has been living outside for at least ten years.
On Friday, Faletti's immediate plans were to warm up inside a 7-Eleven with a cup of coffee and then to sell his scrap items to a recycle center. Instead of walking to the center with his cart which is difficult to push in the slush and snow, Faletti is planning to get a ride from a friend with a pick-up truck.
Usually one of about three or four homeless people who frequent the park, Faletti was the only person in the park early Friday.
Faletti said some homeless people are preferring to stay near the highway viaducts at North Avenue, Division and Webster, where it is warmer, or go to shelters.
Late Thursday, a small army of volunteers standing in front of the The Night Ministry bus, parked outside of the park, outnumbered the homeless people.
Ethan Pope, an intern for The Night Ministry, said that only about 15 people came to the bus during the nearly two hours that it was at the park, as compared to double that amount during warmer weather.
The Night Ministry gives away food and provides medical assistance.
Early Friday, Mike Dunne, assistant director of security at Pacific Garden Mission, the city's largest shelter at 1458 S. Canal St., said that the shelter has not reached capacity and it will not turn anyone away.
"We are experiencing some numbers that are not normal due to the cold," Dunne said.
Pacific Garden mission housed 676 men over Thursday night into Friday morning, as compared to an average of 550 men when the weather is warmer, Dunn said.
About 240 single women slept at the shelter too, according to a worker.
In addition to a 24-hour warming center at 10 S. Garfield Ave and several city-operated daytime warming centers which open at 9 a.m., Wicker Park's Franciscan Outreach Association is offering extended hours at its daytime shelter at 1645 W. LeMoyne St. in Wicker Park.
More details on extended hours are posted on the organization's Facebook page.
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