Activists question how city could have prevented cold weather deaths

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Protesters on Thursday said the City of Memphis should have acted more proactively to get vulnerable populations off the streets and into warming shelters.

“How many times does this have to keep happening for us to move more progressively toward a better plan?” asked Damon Curry Morris, a protester.

Draped in blankets, the demonstrators laid on the damp concrete outside Memphis City Hall.

“We had to create the exact circumstances that led this young man to lose his life the other day,” Morris said.

According to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, eight people died in the state as a result of last week’s severe weather, including two in Shelby County. Six people died in the frigid conditions in Cumberland County.

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“We should have made sure that more resources were in place,” said George Brooks, another protester. “We can do things and set things in place that can work on a nonemergency basis throughout the whole year.”

A city spokeswoman said staffers did work proactively, offering warming centers and providing free transportation through Memphis Area Transit Authority. Staffers also worked with Hospitality Hub to spread the word about the impending storm.

“The man who died had just been released by Methodist – they should have taken steps to help him into a shelter,” said Arlenia Cole, a city spokeswoman.

A spokeswoman for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare told FOX13 that she could not comment on any specific details, nor could she confirm that the man was hospitalized because the city has yet to identify him.

““Every patient we care for has a discharge plan. When working with our homeless population, our social work team helps identify additional resources especially in inclement weather,” she wrote.