No one is sure when Luis M. Escalante died. His body was found underneath a bridge at the northeast corner of Oakton Street and McCormick Boulevard just two days before Christmas Eve.
A look underneath the bridge shows several pieces of cardboard laid out over large rocks. A barrel appears to have been used as a table.
According to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, Escalante was only 53. An officer found Escalante while on patrol. According to the report, Escalante’s leg was hanging from a steel support beam. When police approached the body, it was clear that Escalante had been deceased for some time.
According to the police, various parts of the body had decomposed.
An autopsy by the medical examiner’s office concluded that Escalante died from cold weather exposure.
Last week, Skokie Patch spoke with Ramseh Shah, a homeless man living in Skokie. The 59-year-old said he became homeless shortly after losing his job in 2001. Shah said he believes “two or three” homeless people live in Skokie.
"I don't know where they go at night," he said. "I think some of them have a place, others sleep at the park."
Shah explained that his biggest challenge comes each winter. In Shah’s case, the winter means taking public transportation and spending time inside grocery stores, malls and the library. He then repeats this process daily and, when it becomes warm enough, sleeps at area parks.
According to the National Weather Service, a governmental agency that provides weather, water and climate data, there were eight deaths related to cold weather exposure in Illinois last year.
While there are shelters for the homeless to take cover during the winter, some prefer to handle the season in their own way.
In Skokie, anyone can get out of the cold at the Department of Human Services (DHS), 8020 St. Louis Ave.
Beyond DHS’ hours, however, there are no overnight warming stations in the village.
“The cold,” Shah said with a brief pause. “It’s coming.”