Chicago homeless struggle in frigid cold

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On a day when Chicagoans want to escape the bitter cold, some cannot.

"It's freezing cold... it's depressing, it's sad, sometimes you don't know what to do," said Maria Giannopoulos, poking her head out of the tent in which she lives.

Homeless for the past three years, Giannopoulos huddles with her husband Jermaine, a dog and a kitten beneath a West Loop overpass on Fulton Street.

Beyond "a couple blankets," sleeping bags and extra layers of pants, this family has little protection from Chicago's frigid temperatures; and when it's cold enough for icicles to hang from cars, even in what Giannopoulos describes as the warmest tent she's had, "it's still miserable."

Spending about an hour outside in this weather, I began losing feeling in my fingers. So imagine if this wasn't a morning commute to work but instead the environment in which you lived--your life in bags and crates along the sidewalk for all to see.

Yet if you can believe it, Maria Giannopoulos is luckier than others. Just blocks away, there were no tents.

For these Chicagoans, a pile of blankets and a cardboard wind guard were the only protection from Mother Nature.
Like the other campsite, this one was exposed to the elements and traffic rumbling by. The tenants pleas etched on hand-written signs.

Giannopoulos feels her calls for aid sometimes fall on deaf ears as people walk past.

"I've been to shelters, I've been to churches," she said, explaining that she's been turned away because of the two pets she refuses to abandon.

The 38-year-old says she's been on multiple housing lists for two years, but wonders what more she can do without basic amenities.

"How are you going to go to work when your hair's dirty, your finger nails are dirty, your clothes are dirty," she asked.

Down the street a toothbrush stuck out of the pile, seeming to ask the same questions, longing for basic hygiene.

This is all in the shadows of a sunny Chicago day. While some will look out on the snow from warm homes, people like Maria Giannopoulos may have gone hungry without reprieve from the chill of night and with little sense of where tomorrow will take them.
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