Police have identified a homeless man found unresponsive and stuck in a clothing donation bin as 50-year old Joseph Hanshaw. They believe a claw-like door inside the Salvation Army bin on Commerce Street closed when the victim was climbing in looking for clothes to keep warm or a place to sleep. Police say an autopsy found that Hanshaw had pre-existing medical issues that caused his death but that the clothing bin was also a contributing factor.
"I just can't believe it," said Evelyn Starks. She says she knew the victim as JoJo when she was once homeless.
The salvation army has since removed the bins after the incident happened Monday night.
"He slept in those bins a whole lot but it's just that this time here this happened," claimed Starks.
Bridgeton officials, in response to Hanshaw's death, immediately activated a Code Blue plan for dangerously cold nights that was originally scheduled to start after the first of the year. They say frigid temperatures came sooner than they expected. Warming centers are now open at churches like Saint Andrew's Episcopal.
"They can get a break from the cold, something to eat and a place to stay," said Pastor Ellen Rutherford. The church is stocked with cots, blankets and food ready. Many people donated items to the church, including Sharon and Ed Guth. They said they are saddened by Hanshaw's death and brought in a car load of donations.
"When you read in the paper that somebody died in the cold and they're only three miles from your house it's sad that they have no place to go," said a teary-eyed Sharon. She said, "I'm not a rich person. I'm just blessed to have the Lord in my heart."
The Mayor and emergency agencies will decide every day whether to activate the Code Blue based on weather conditions and temperature guidelines. The warming centers would then be open from dusk until dawn on designated days.