Homeless advocates sound off on Green Bay dumpster death

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The death of a Green Bay homeless man yesterday has area advocates asking for the public's help to provide consistent year-round shelter for those struggling. 55-year-old Thomas Worth was sleeping in a dumpster during a rainstorm Tuesday night. He died from injuries he received after a garbage truck emptied that dumpster the next morning.

Advocates are hoping his death will be the push the public needs to get involved in helping the homeless.

Chief Andrew Smith of the Green Bay Police Department said, "When St. John's closes because it's summer months, we do see an increase in people walking around that appear to be homeless. We notice that there's an increase in complaints about homeless people. There's an increase in people living in like, for instance, Baird's Creek."

Thomas Worth was one of the dozens of homeless who had been staying at Saint John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter until it closed for the summer because of a city ordinance that states they need to close for 180 days a year.

Alexia Wood, Executive Director of St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter said, "He was seeking safety and that's specifically why he went to that dumpster, and it's not the first time somebody living on the streets has sought refuge in the dumpster, we hear it quite often, actually.”

Wood calls Worth a contributing member of society who was down on his luck and scared of sleeping on the streets. "He wasn't out there thinking he was invincible. He had a fear for his survival, and so for it to end the way it did,” she said, “I'm hopeful when the community is outraged, that it will lead to change."

She says Worth is not the first to sleep in a dumpster and be injured from the fall into the back of a garbage truck. He’s not even the first homeless death in Green Bay this year.

"If members of our community are dying without access to safe and warm housing, I don't think any of us can sit here and say we're doing enough,” said Wood. “All of us need to come forward with our resources, with our skill sets, with our passions."

Action 2 News also received this statement from Karen Michaels, President, Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition:
“We are heartbroken over the news of the accidental death of the homeless man who was sleeping in a downtown Green Bay dumpster. This tragic event unfortunately highlights the unseen reality of homelessness experienced by many individuals and families in Brown County. Despite the ongoing and committed efforts of hardworking service providers to connect our homeless neighbors to available resources in our community, there remains a lack of safe and affordable housing for many. The Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition will continue, and encourages others to join, efforts that build a compassionate community with safe housing for all."