LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Homeless men and women braved the bitter cold Sunday night with damp blankets, thin tents and cardboard boxes.
“We are homeless, but we are still human beings just like everyone else," said Andre Caldera.
"I'm a teenager," said Dante Rivera, who has lived on the streets for two months. "I shouldn't even be out here."
Temperatures in Las Cruces plummeted to 16 degrees on Sunday night. According to ABC-7's records, that was the coldest weather the city experienced since January 2013.
“It is hard to watch people in the cold," said Henry Young, the executive director of the Gospel Rescue Mission. "We still feed them at the gate three times a day. We try to make at least one of those a hot meal."
In previous years, the Gospel Rescue Mission had opened up overflow space when temperatures dropped below freezing. However, the executive director said some visitors started urinating on the walls.
“Just prior to Covid hitting, we had a group that came in that would not follow the rules," Young said. "It began to stink around the area of the door, so we had to make a decision. Do we keep overflow open? Ruin the walls?"
With advanced notice of the cold, ABC-7 asked why Las Cruces did not open up warming shelters like El Paso.
“We don’t deal directly with the homeless," said Mayor Ken Miyagishima. "We go to to our (non-profit), Community of Hope. We're there when they need us."
The mayor said his team can provide additional funding to non-profits, if needed. He said he hesitates to open indoor shelters because of the pandemic, but that the city would consider passing out supplies if the cold had lasted longer.
"Maybe some portable heaters," Miyagishima said. "Again, we're trying to keep as much as we can, people from congregating amongst each other, especially indoors."