Homeless man in Buffalo loses legs to cold weather

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Being homeless during some of Buffalo’s most recent severe weather events has cost a man his legs.

Jeff, who asked that his last name not be published, lived in a space outside of the Tops plaza in North Buffalo. During Buffalo’s blizzard last March, he was taken by ambulance to the hospital when he could no longer walk.

“My toes were gray, so I knew that was bad frostbite,” Jeff, 53, said. “My whole left foot was almost black. They said that’s going to have to be amputated. I said, yeah, I can see that right off the bat.”

In November he was back on the street.  The severe storm that month claimed his other leg. Someone found him unconscious.

“You don’t realize what you lose until you lose it. There’s so many things I can’t do. I’m restricted to the bed or the chair,” Jeff lamented.

Jason Flores is working to have Jeff placed in home equipped to handle a wheel chair. As the outreach supervisor for the Matt Urban Hope Center, Flores followed Jeff’s decline on the streets, and eventually caught up with him in the hospital.

“It’s not uncommon for clients to go MIA for a couple of weeks or a month or so. After that, we started calling around hospitals. We called the jail. We even called the morgue,” he said.

Flores has been working with Transit and Buffalo Police to better coordinate efforts on issues of the homeless.

Now the Buffalo bus terminal will house a satellite location for groups helping the homeless.

“It will not be a place for the homeless to come and congregate to obtain services,” Niagara Frontier Transit Authority Police Chief George Gast said. He said it would be a location that the homeless outreach advocates and the counselors can utilize as a base of operations.

Jeff is supporting a petition that would create a special homeless outreach unit within the Buffalo Police Department. He says officers in that unit should be plain-clothed. He said “people see the uniform, they just shut right up. They’re scared. They run. They don’t want anything to do with them.”

Jeff hopes any future home will offer him a family-type environment with good neighbors nearby. But he said if that doesn’t happen he might opt to go back to the streets during the warmer seasons in Buffalo.

As for another winter, he says he’s done.

“No. I never would be able to survive.”

 

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