The harsh winter weather can be brutal for those enduring homelessness, especially for the many that don’t have access to a homeless shelter. Having to live in the cold puts one’s health, safety, and even life at risk. How can we get involved and help these individuals during the winter?
Statistics And Risks
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, over half a million people were experiencing homelessness in America in January 2020. Seventy percent of this population consisted of adult individuals, and nearly 35 thousand were unaccompanied youth. The rest of the population was made up of families with children.
Between 2019 and 2020, nationwide homelessness increased by 2%. Prior, this rate was decreasing steadily for about 9 years.
Progress since 2020 has been minimal. The COVID-19 pandemic caused unemployment rates and home prices to skyrocket, forcing many more into homelessness.
This means that each winter, about half a million Americans are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and even death. Hypothermia is considered a medical emergency, as it causes a dangerous drop in body temperature. Frostbite can freeze the skin on a person’s face, fingers, or toes; it can permanently damage the skin and may require amputation.
How You Can Help
Donate warm clothing such as heavy jackets, gloves, socks, hats, and scarves. Also, consider donating clothing that can easily be layered, such as sweaters, hoodies, and coats. Some individuals experiencing homelessness couch surf or live in a car, so being able to easily add or remove layers to adjust to the changing temperatures is crucial.
If you have a charity meal prep and delivery organization near you, consider volunteering your time to cook warm meals or deliver them to those in need. Feed The People, located in Oakland, California, delivers warm, home-cooked meals to individuals experiencing homelessness in the Bay Area.
Create your own care packages and hand them out if you live in an area that has a high rate of homelessness. Partners Ending Homelessness suggests filling a large plastic bag with the following items: bandaids, clean socks, deodorant, lip balm, lotion, wet wipes, nail clippers, cotton swabs, hand warmers, and snacks like granola bars.
You can also volunteer at your local shelter. Many homeless shelters are often full and even have a waiting list, and this is especially true during the cold months. When shelters are full, as many volunteers as possible are needed. The National Coalition for the Homeless suggests asking your local shelter when they need help the most.
If you are able, you may also consider donating to organizations that serve those experiencing homelessness. You can donate to local organizations or larger charities. Some larger charities include the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the Coalition for the Homeless.
While many of us will spend the winter months cozy at home, hundreds of thousands of people will have to endure harsh weather. It is important that we help these individuals in any way we can, whether that be a small monetary donation or contributing several hours to a local shelter. Those enduring homelessness have to worry about their health, safety, next meal, and so much more. If you can relieve even one of their worries during the winter- a particularly difficult time of year- you are making a positive difference.