1 of 2
August Miller, Deseret Morning News
Ron Hinkley, who is homeless, has stayed at Ogden's St. Anne's shelter, which is overflowing.

OGDEN — Steven Michael Holbrook was found on the second floor of this abandoned building on busy Washington Boulevard.

He was lying on a thin foam mattress. A coat and a hat were his only protection from the extremely cold temperatures. It wasn't nearly enough.

"It looks like he just laid down and went to sleep and didn't wake up," Ogden Police Lt. Scott Sangberg said Thursday.

Police believe the cold may have contributed to the death of Holbrook, 44, whose body was found Wednesday afternoon in the boarded-up building at 2314 Washington Blvd. Officers said it appears he'd pried away some of the boards to get in to seek shelter.

"He's a local transient-type individual who has been in and out of jail," Sangberg said. "In fact, he had a citation in his pocket out of Riverdale for something."

Police and homeless advocates say Holbrook's death didn't have to happen, and as the state continues to endure sub-freezing temperatures, authorities fear there may be more deaths.

"It's really unfortunate," said Jennifer Canter, who runs the St. Anne's shelter near Wall Avenue and Binford Street. "There are places he could have gone."

The cold temperatures have been bringing in the homeless. All 106 beds at St. Anne's have been taken for the past week. Canter has made room by letting people sleep in the hallways and in the lobby. If it gets worse, she's not afraid to open up the cafeteria to sleep 20 to 30 more people.

No matter how bad it gets, some people still refuse to come in from the cold.

"It's freezing," said Ron Hinkley, who stood outside St. Anne's on Thursday afternoon.

His hands buried deep into his pockets, he said he has two coats on. St. Anne's doesn't let him loiter inside during the day. He says he's now staying at an apartment, but for the past 10 years, the shelter was his home.

"We used to go out to vacant houses," he said. "In the summertime, we'd go down to the river."

Many people won't stay in the shelter. Part of it is the transient lifestyle, police say, but another part of it is mental-health issues.

"They don't like the structured life," Sangberg said. "They don't like people telling them what to do."

Canter agrees, citing the shelter's rules about doors closing at 8 p.m. and not letting people go outside even for a cigarette. Still, she is willing to bend the rules every now and then.

"We'll find them a spot," she said.

For those who refuse to come inside, St. Anne's and the other shelters in Ogden hand out blankets and sleeping bags. Transient camps are up and down the Weber River.

"Neither the Rescue Mission or St. Anne's will turn anybody away on a night like that," Sangberg said. "If they're intoxicated beyond that — that's one of the reasons we arrest a drunk."

Even if a homeless man goes to jail for public intoxication, he's still alive the next day, Sangberg argues. There is no evidence the man who died had been drinking, although police said he did have a record for alcohol arrests.

"If this individual had run into our officers that night, he'd have been in jail or we'd have given him a ride to St. Anne's to see if they could take care of him," Sangberg said.

Canter said news of the man's death will travel fast on the streets. It may persuade others to seek shelter as the temperatures drop again.

"If anything good can come out of this, now it forces more people and law enforcement to go out and check these areas," she said, urging people to keep an eye on abandoned buildings in the Ogden area.

"Unfortunately, I think that it happens a lot more than people realize. ... There might be people living in the building right next door."


E-mail: [email protected]