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Climate Change and its Threat to People that are Homeless

 After a slow start, winter storms are plentiful in the Northeast and Midwest. These regions have seen over a foot of snow on separate occasions this past month. With storms creeping down into places as south as Texas, many people that are homeless are experiencing extreme cold more often. Before the affects of climate change became so apparent, Texas was not familiar with the freezing temperatures and icy roads many northerners have grown accustomed to. People in the southern plains (where winter storms are likely to increase the most), especially people that are homeless, do not have proper materials to defend themselves. In another 5 or 6 months, many Americans will be experiencing extreme heat or battling through hurricane season.

While climate change becomes more severe, it is often ignored by the powers that be.  Extreme cold and heat, blizzards, tornadoes, droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes, are all getting worse. Those with no shelter are most at risk from these disasters. Of course, the government is not doing much to help people that are homeless now or planning for what to do in the future. 

Natural disasters can also affect housed people by pushing them into homelessness when their homes are destroyed in natural disasters. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleans residents were abandoned left on their own to find their way out of the city themselves. In early 2021, the Texas power grid went down during a blizzard. People without generators were left to find heat themselves.

According to the Texas Tribune, at least six people that are homeless died during the winter storm and subsequent power outage. Homelessness advocates drove around Texas cities to get people to shelters during the storm. Only 1 in 20 accepted the offer due to overcrowding.

Overcrowding is a common issue at homeless shelters. If governments are not willing to provide the resources needed to properly support people that are homeless, then people that are homeless are not likely to seek them out, not to mention the lack of staffing and safety concerns from COVID-19. Often, it is only in dire circumstances that homeless shelters are sought to be used, and even then it is a question.

If people that are homeless choose to stay where they are during natural disasters, they are at risk and so are their belongings. According to NBC News, a Midwestern derecho (wind storm) tore through Cedar Rapids, Iowa last spring causing the destruction of tents, stoves, and lanterns. Everything else was left with a wet grime. 

As natural disasters become more severe and more common, people that are homeless will be unprepared. This is especially true when natural disasters occur one after another and many belongings may already be lost. Homeless shelters can only help so much at their current state. It is not only necessary for housed people to help by volunteering at their local homeless shelter, the U.S. government and by proxy the corporations must realize the horror to come if it does not protect its people.

Resources:

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/22/texas-winter-storm-homeless-deaths/

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/crises-collide-homeless-america-climate-disaster-strikes-rcna697

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