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Not all homeless people able to reach shelter during snowstorm

Some homeless people in Baltimore faced a freezing, snowy night outdoors

Willie Foster and Ashley Howell stood huddled together on top of a blanket Saturday outside Healthcare for the Homeless, desperately trying to get warm after spending the night out in the snow. Howell said she kept hoping that someone might come with food or other aid, but no one did.

"Nobody came," she said. "Nobody did anything."

The pair were among about a dozen people who said they slept outside the facility on the Fallsway. The area around the entrance was covered and mostly clear of snow, but flakes swirled in, leaving the concrete surface damp. Many of the people there said they expected to spend a second night in the snow after rumors circulated that shelters were all full, even though city officials said there was still room.

At a news conference Saturday morning, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake urged people to call 311 to get help to homeless people.

"We have outreach workers who are doing their best to connect with homeless individuals, and we need your help as well in helping us to identify where they are," Rawlings-Blake said. "We've added shuttles to get them to shelters to be safe."

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said officers also helped several homeless people to shelters Friday night, and elsewhere in the city people started volunteer efforts to try to reach people in need.

In West Baltimore, Coppin State University opened a gym as a temporary shelter, said Lt. Lawrence Ames of the school's police department. Forty cots were set up in a partnership with the state government and expected to stay open through the weekend.

In Hampden, the owner of Angelo's Pie in the Sky pizzeria on the roof-level floor of a senior high-rise apartment building on Roland Avenue opened up Saturday in an effort to feed any needy or homeless people in the area.

The owner, Angelo Pizza — his real name — was picked up at his house in Hampden in a Humvee by police officers and a National Guardsman, and was driven to the restaurant, Northern District Police Maj. Robert Gibson said.

"The only reason we're open today is to feed the homeless," said Pizza, who came up with the idea with Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and Fred Wilhelm, president of the high-rise's board of trustees. "We want people to know there's a meal waiting for them."

They made arrangements to pick people up with the help of police and get them back to shelters.

Despite the city's efforts and those of good Samaritans, many people slept out in the snowstorm Friday night.

Around 7 a.m. Saturday morning, two men sat on the ground beneath an overhang of a building on North Calvert Street. One sat up with his back resting against the side of the building and the hood of his coat drawn tight around his face. A second person lay on the ground, underneath blankets with a bag of belongings nearby. They appeared to have camped overnight.

Outside Healthcare for the Homeless, Foster said this was the first time he'd been stuck outside in a storm — usually he had been able to find a friend or a relative to stay with during the worst weather. He said he was being careful not to drink too much because he thought filling his body with liquid might bring on hypothermia.

He wasn't optimistic about getting inside Saturday night and was considering trying to find an abandoned house.

"Someone has to come together and say we're going to help these people out," he said.

After learning that he could call 311 for help, Foster said he got picked up late Saturday afternoon.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Jessica Anderson and Larry Perl contributed to this article.

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