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December 25, 1985

Helter shelter as Arctic blast puts the Apple on cold alert

by Ransdell Pierson and Charles Lachman
A COLD weather emergency was declared last night as the city was hit by an Arctic blast that plunged temperatures to the low teens and the wind-chill factor to below zero.

With the alert in effect, police began rounding up homeless men and women and bringing them to shelters to spend the night.

The National Weather Service said the bitter cold should stay with us through Saturday.

Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-20s during the day and in the low teens at night.

Officials were expecting about 8500 homeless people to pack the city's 20 shelters last night.

"If people have no place to go, the call is out -- there are beds available," said Jack Deacy, spokeman for the Human Resources Administration.

"It's not easy to be homeless on a holiday like this," he added.

The cold weather emergency authorizes cops to bring homeless men and women to shelters even if they don't want to go.

Last night, city workers fanned out through Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station looking for homeless people and offering them a ride to a shelter.

Heat complaints were pouring in at the rate of 200 an hour last night, said June Selder, supervisor for the Central Complaint Bureau of the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development.

Most tenants who call in complaints have been without heat for several days, Selder said.

"They say they're cold, that they're sitting there with their coats on," she said.

"Most of them say they're sick, or their babies are sick. Some say they've just come home from the hospital, and there's no heat."

Meanwhile, the mother of an Ivy League lawyer who is wandering the streets of the city has issued a holiday appeal for help in locating her troubled son.

With the onset of winter weather, the woman has become frantic over the man's health, said George McDonald of the Coalition for the Homeless.

"She wanted to know how cold it was, and if he was still eating out of garbage cans," said McDonald.

He said the lawyer, identified only by his first name, Gary, is 6-foot-4 and black.

Anyone who had seen him was asked to call police at (212) 374-6913.

The 28-year-old lawyer was born to a poor family in Alabama, graduated from Harvard College and Columbia Law School.

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