By Hunter Styles
Four days ago, Tomás Astacio slept outside for the first time. He found a locked, empty building on Winter Street in Springfield and climbed up to the second floor, where he spent the night on a balcony.
The temperature dropped below freezing that night — 22 degrees with wind chill — but he says he couldn’t go back to the room he’d been renting from a friend in Indian Orchard. That friend, he tells me, drinks too much. “And when he drinks he gets violent and stupid. He threw me out.”
It’s Astacio’s third night at the Worthington Street shelter. He’s sitting beside a new friend, John Comeau, of Chicopee. Comeau has been staying here for three weeks, so when Astacio arrived a few days ago and didn’t know anyone, Comeau introduced himself and offered to talk about life at the shelter.
But it’s only tonight, as a predicted blizzard rolls in, that they’re really getting to know each other.
The storm and the dire predictions surrounding it have spurred a spike in shelter guests. Friends of the Homeless’ 110-unit men’s dorm filled up quickly, and staff have turned the cafeteria into an overflow sleeping area. That’s where Astacio, Comeau, and 14 other men are sleeping tonight.