Cold Weather

Photo by Bruce Gilden

Cold Weather

Clean warm socks can mean live or death in the winter and humanitarian companies offer 1 for 1 purchase donating to those who are struggling.

By Bruce Gilden

Temperatures are dropping this time of year in many parts of the world. As it gets colder and colder outside, one group in particular faces new and dangerous challenges: those who are homeless.

Homelessness is a serious issue throughout the year, but it becomes even more pressing in the winter months. For people living on the street, colder temperatures and wet weather can pose serious risks—even when the weather doesn’t seem extreme to the general public.

This graph from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, or NOAA. According to this illustration, temperatures of 30℉ with winds of 15 miles per hour drop the wind chill temperature down to 19℉. At that temperature, frostbite can affect exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.
Fredy Holzer

Frostbite isn’t the only danger homeless individuals face. Hypothermia can quickly set in if the body temperature drops below 90℉. Which happens more quickly as the wind chill increases. Wet weather can soak limited clothing, further increasing the risk of hypothermia and frostbite, as well as a myriad of other health concerns.

One of the main recommendations by the NOAA involves dressing in layers and covering exposed skin. The more skin that is exposed, the greater effect the wind chill can have. But for many of our neighbors who are homeless, layering up is more complicated—they might only have the clothes on their back.

And while people who are homeless struggle to get many things they need, inadequate clothing can have disastrous effects. In January 2018, a nationwide cold front in the United States and in one week, twelve people passed away due to extreme cold, according to AP News. The cold isn’t just uncomfortable; it can become life-threatening.

This is a sobering reality and one that spans different regions and even different countries. But how can we help?

According to the sock company Bombas, socks are the most requested item at homeless shelters. Clean, warm, and dry socks are essential to help those who are homeless stay warm and healthy. So Bombas donates a pair of socks for every pair that is purchased. Their contributions make their way into homeless shelters, food banks, and community centers throughout the United States, and then into the hands of struggling people.

Socks are only part of the solution—coats, hats, and gloves are also essential to protect people from the wind and cold. Another issue that many have brought up lately has revolved around when warming shelters open. Many communities set a certain threshold, such as 30℉, before shelters are available. Homelessness advocates have been pushing to open them sooner, as even 40℉ weather can be dangerous for people without adequate clothing.

Next time you buy socks consider yourself a pair, and someone else a pair. And advocate for the opening of shelters more quickly in the winter keeping our friends warm and safe this difficult time of year.

| Written by Benjamin Hoekstra

| Visuals by Bruce Gilden, Fredy Holzer, LATimes

Nov. 8, 1982: Don Dammer peers up from his bed, a mattress on dirt beneath an overpass on the Hollywood Freeway. Behind Kammer are other mattresses with one sleeping neighbor. This photo was published in the Nov. 21, 1982 Los Angeles Times.