We begged Jody not to go back outside.
“It’s bitterly cold outside. You’ve been drinking and too many things could go wrong,” we warned him as temperatures dipped into the 20s.
But Jody would have none of it. When we took away his bottle of mouthwash — a source of alcohol often used by people who are homeless — he got mad.
Later, we went outside hoping to convince him to come back in. But we couldn’t find him.
A Close Call
The next morning, the police did — under a bridge in World’s Fair Park with his bare feet sticking out from under two blankets and a deep blue color. The officers who found him probably saved Jody’s life. But they couldn’t save his toes, which were now badly frostbitten and had to be amputated.
“It really makes me sad,” said Mychal Spence, who was working the front desk for KARM that night. “You always wonder if you could have done more.”
Knoxville winters can be brutal, especially for those who are experiencing homelessness. Freezing temperatures can quickly turn deadly for those who choose to remain outside.
That’s why we fly a white flag outside our building when temperatures dip below freezing, to let our homeless neighbors know that choosing to stay outside in the cold could cost them their lives.
After his emergency surgery, it took Jody six months of rehab to be able to walk again. Still homeless, he showed up at KARM one day for a meal and a bed — and to apologize to Mychal for the way he acted the night before he nearly died on the streets.
“I’m not mad at you anymore for me losing my feet,” he whispered.
Mychal said he was just glad Jody was alive. Had the police not found him, Jody probably couldn’t have survived another night on the streets.
KARM is Ready to Help
Wintertime is no time to be living on the streets of Knoxville. Especially when KARM has the welcome mat out, offering warm meals, safe shelter, and for people like Jody, the chance to break free from the addictions that hold them captive.