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Advocates want more winter resources after friends say homeless Memphis man froze to death

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 11:16 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:57 AM CST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Memphis man is dead after friends say he froze to death earlier this month.

Local non-profit Constance Abbey wants to raise awareness about the dangers of freezing weather and the need for more warming centers in Memphis.

Thursday, the non-profit helped people stay warm and fed during the cold and freezing weather. They say they’d like to see more be done in the city of Memphis to help those experiencing homelessness during the winter season, especially after the loss of their dear friend.

Friends of Memphis resident Eric Martin say he froze to death earlier this month near city hall.

“His smile was so wonderful. It was hard to believe that he was gone. That smile is not something we’ll see any more,” said Margaret Smith, Constance Abbey volunteer and secretary of the board of directors

Smith knew Martin personally. During cold and potentially dangerous weather, Smith says resources in Memphis are slim.

“We need more warming centers closer to where unhoused people are and that’s right here in the Medical District, mainly, and downtown,” said Smith.

Thursday, Constance Abbey ran a daytime warming center off Alabama Avenue. They were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and offered three meals to those who came to the center.

Diana Todd told Action News 5 she’s been experiencing homelessness for a year.

“Last night, I slept under four sleeping bags, thank goodness,” said Todd. “Thank you Lord, and I had a big pile underneath me. But when I reached for my water bottle through the night, it was froze.”

Vincent Lockhart told Action News 5 he’s been coming to Constance Abbey for eight months.

“It’s so easy to lose everything you’ve got out there,” said Lockhart.

Both Todd and Lockhart believe there needs to be more resources for those experiencing homelessness in the city.

“There’s people that’s behind trees and in boxes and stuff. You’d never see unless you get out and walk around, then you’d see them,” said Lockhart.

But they also said the generosity of Constance Abbey and strangers who’ve given them sleeping bags, blankets, food, and more, has helped get them through hard times.

“Memphians, you all are doing good because you’ve helped me out a lot,” said Lockhart.

“You all are wonderful,” said Todd. “I wouldn’t have survived like I have.”

Memphis police told Action News 5 that Martin’s cause of death has not been determined.

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