It’s getting cold out there and this can mean bad news for anyone who doesn’t have a place to go. There are many services that help those who are homeless or without food and shelter. I personally support some of them, like DC Central Kitchen, God's Love We Deliver, and SF-Marin Food Bank, which have some great programs that help lots of people.
There have already been 4 hypothermia-related deaths in Portland alone since 2017 began and there are many more people in cities across the country who are at a serious risk for hypothermia. At any one time there may be up to 200,000 people in the US living without shelter. This is a real problem and we should do something about it.
There are many ways for you to help. During the winter months, many states around the country offer services that help people who are homeless avoid hypothermia and stay safe from tough weather. These are usually open during the winter season from November through March depending on your state. In Washington, DC, a Hypothermia Alert is called when the temperature falls to 32° Fahrenheit.
You may be wondering how the service works. You can call anytime. It varies by state but often, upon contacting 311 or calling a local shelter you will be asked by a trained operator to explain the problem. You can let them know your location, and that there may be someone who's homeless at risk of hypothermia. They will dispatch folks to do a wellness check and talk to the person you called about and, if necessary, give them a ride to a shelter so they can stay safe for the night.
The whole thing is anonymous, which means you don’t have to share any personal information if you don’t want to. 311, 211, and 1800 numbers are also free to call so you don’t have to worry about being billed for helping someone out.
Here’s a list of numbers you can call for help in several states:
- Ann Arbor, MI: (734) 961-1999 for Shelter Association of Washtenaw County
- Atlanta, GA: (404) 447-3678 for the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless
- Baltimore, MD: 311
- Birmingham, AL: (205) 252-9571 for the Firehouse Shelter
- Boston, MA: (617) 635-4500
- Chicago, IL: 311
- Denver, CO: (720) 944-1007 for Denver’s Road Home during business hours or 311 24/7
- Detroit, MI: 1 (800) 274-3583 and 1-800-343-4427
- Kansas City, MO: (816) 474-5112
- Minneapolis, MN: 1 (888) 234-1329
- New Haven, CT: 211
- New York City, NY:311
- Philadelphia, PA: (215) 232-1984 for the Project HOME Homeless Outreach Hotline
- Pittsburgh, PA: (412) 779-1329
- Portland, OR: (503) 823-3333 or 211
- San Francisco, CA: 311
- St. Louis, MO: (314) 802-5444
- Syracuse, NY: (315) 416-9237
- Washington, D.C.: (202) 399-7093 or 311. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a comprehensive list of shelters in Chicago, check out this page and for a list of shelters in NY state, click here. You can also follow @DCHypothermia on Twitter to stay up-to-date on alerts in the DMV.
There are also many orgs that are really serious and are helping to fight this problem. We Are Family DC offers transportation for seniors for all different kinds of services, so if you see a senior citizen in need of some help you can contact them during business hours at (202) 487-8698.
Let’s do all we can to help out, especially during the cold winter months. It’s important to keep an eye out, and call for help - don't assume someone else has already done it. And, if you’re able, try volunteering at a local shelter or for your state’s 311 service. You could save a life.
If there’s a number I’m forgetting or an org that’s helping the homeless stay safe during the winter, please comment below and, please, be sure to share this post. Thanks!