Homeless outreach teams determined to get New Yorkers out of the cold

NEW YORK (WABC) -- They're hitting the streets long before the sanders and the road salt.

Teams of social workers are searching parking lots and back alleys.

They are determined to get homeless New Yorkers out of the cold.

Cara Ochsenreiter and Alice Barry are with Breaking Ground, a non-profit homeless outreach agency.

They are one of a half dozen teams sweeping through Brooklyn and Queens on frigid winter nights, often in response to 311 calls.

"How many different neighborhoods will you hit on a night like tonight?" Eyewitness News Reporter N.J. Burkett asked.

"We'll try to hit all of them where we have vulnerable clients," Ochsenreiter said.

The homeless are forbidden to remain in the streets when the temperature dips below freezing.

So Cara and Alice won't take "no" for an answer.

"It's unsafe, bottom line, it's unsafe," Ochsenreiter said.

Their orders are to call 911 if anyone refuses to move indoors, whether it's to a shelter, or a subway, or a train terminal, but it rarely comes to that.

"It's been our experience that if we are persistent, if we are kind, if we are respectful, that over time everyone will choose to go inside," Ochsenreiter said.

In this case, they persuade a panhandler to head for the subway.

"He already has a bed, he knows how to get there, he trusts us, and he was willing to let us swipe him onto the subway," Ochsenreiter said.

But on this night, they find fewer people in the streets. It's an indication that homeless New Yorkers may be getting the message.

"Bottom line is they can't stay out in this," Burkett said.

"No, no," Ochsenreiter said.
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