Rough nights ahead for homeless as temperature drops

Image 1 of 4

Layers of old donated clothing are barely keeping Patricia Power warm as she panhandles outside of Walmart in Tampa.

Power has been homeless off and on for the past five years. It is a hard life made even tougher as overnight temperatures dip around the freezing mark.

”It is cold its hard people degrade you they look down on you,” she said. “Last night I was in an open field and it started to rain about 3 a.m. this morning I went underneath a tractor-trailer got still soaking wet.”

She knows the harshest nights are still ahead.

She’ll stay outside somewhere that blocks the wind rather than go to a shelter. But she knows staying out in the cold puts her health at risk.

LINK: Cold weather shelters open across Tampa Bay

“When the cold gets icy like it is it’s hard for me to breathe. I get pain in my chest and down my arm,” she said.

She is praying for things to turn around.

“I’m praying it gets warmer soon…very quickly,” she said. ”There's a handful of us out here not trying to do anything but survive.”

Power said shelters are crowded when the weather outside is nice, so she knows it will be worse with the cold. She also said she knows panhandling is illegal, but she's doing what she must to get by. 

She says, at this point, it's her only option.