BUTTE, Mont. - Butte-Silver Bow Sheriff Ed Lester told NBC Montana officers are paying close attention to area homeless after a man is found dead, possibly from exposure to dangerously cold temperatures.
The 52-year old man's body was discovered behind the Little Caesar's on Harrison Avenue early Tuesday evening. Lester said the man wasn't dressed for conditions and likely died of hypothermia or some other medical issue.
'Unfortunately this individual wasn't one of the ones we normally deal with, so I will continue to look through the areas that we see transients gathering and advise them to either head for the mission or try to get them some assistance if we can," said Sheriff Lester.
Foul play is not suspected, but the investigators have ordered a toxicology report.
Lester told us officers are traveling into area homeless camps and letting them know where they can find help when it gets cold.
The Butte Rescue Mission and the Butte-Silver Bow police are working together in these frigid temperatures.
We followed Patrol Officer Joshua Moore while he checked various homeless camps in Butte.
"We'll look at some of the alleys," Moore said. "Behind businesses and stuff, we have these walking tunnels that go under Harrison so we'll check those."
Moore said especially in these cold temperatures, police will offer rides to the homeless that seem to be struggling against the weather.
"We'll move them over to the mission if need be," Moore said. "We don't make them walk. If there's room over there we'll get them over there."
And that's what happened to Butte Rescue Mission resident Frank Ramey Jr. about a month ago.
"I was diagnosed with pneumonia," Ramey explained.
He came to the Butte Rescue Mission for help.
"I know right now I would not be alive without these people," he said. "They'll feed you if you're hungry, they'll give you a warm place to sleep."
Resident Ronald Latrey found himself in a similar position a couple weeks ago.
"I was absolutely amazed," he said about the Rescue Mission. "I was in a position where it was 20 below zero and I asked myself 'What am I going to do?'"
Butte Rescue Mission Manager Amy Perry said they don't turn anyone away when it's cold, even those under the influence.
"I don't care if you're under the influence," she said. "You just have to sign in and sleep it off and you can go about your business and your choices are your choices. But your choices shouldn't lead to death. We're here to prevent that"
Perry said she does everything she can to to make sure there's room when temperatures fall to dangerous lows, including converting spaces like the dining room.
"Please come and see us and get all the help you can. It's what we're here for," she said.