Temperatures lingering in the subzero range during most of January are putting Anchorage's homeless population at higher risk for cold injury.
Dr. James O'Malley, a local frostbite specialist, says in the past few weeks, he has treated about 25 cases of frostbite- typically what he sees in an entire year.
"A lot of them are or are near to being homeless. So those people who can't get inside, or those people who don't want to be inside, are at big risk for cold injury," says O'Malley.
Treating frostbite takes time, sometimes months, and staying out of the cold during that time is key to healing. But for the homeless, that can be hard to do when a warm place to stay might only last until morning. That's why O'Malley says prevention is the best "treatment" out there. He has partnered with Bean's café to create "The Boots" program, outfitting those in need of warm winter boots- whether they're clients of the shelter, or patients in need.
"It's a problem with our clientele, every year, every winter. We do have several cases right now and they're sent to the hospital. They're bandaged up and they're checked over," says Kathy Olson, social services director at Bean's café.
The shelter is also in need of gloves and hats and welcomes donations.