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For homeless people, the cold is life-threatening

Jose Jelgado, a homeless man originally from Guatemala, tried to rest in a warm place in South Station on Monday. "I try to survive the best I can," Jelgado said. –Dina Rudick / The Boston Globe

New Year’s Day brought to the city of Boston the fifth consecutive day of temperatures below 20 degrees, and fears from officials and homeless people that the sustained frigid weather was taxing the city’s resources and imperiling the lives of people on the streets.

“It has never been this bad,’’ said Karen LaFrazia, President and CEO of St. Francis House, the day shelter where she has worked for 20 years. “It’s just so frozen. I see people coming in with their hands bloated, skin purple. … You can sort of see people hunkered into themselves.’’

With Wednesday projected to hit a high of 18 degrees, the city is poised to record its second-longest stretch ever of consecutive days — six in a row — with temperatures below 20, said Hayden Frank, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. The record of seven days, he said, belongs to 1917.

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