Cold Weather

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.


Seeing the Face of Homelessness

Why am I telling you his story? Well, because all too often, we judge by appearance and assume someone’s character.

Animation by JannerBros is based on a real-life interview with a homeless man Brendan who was homeless for almost 2 years. We walk past homeless people every day of our lives, without stopping to ask questions or even judging them… Well here is an opportunity to hear from a homeless man.

As I walked into the dining room, my eyes fell on him. To be candid, at first glance he looked like a thug. Very thin, scrawny even, I wondered how well he would handle the physically difficult cooks’ position. His clothes were wrinkled and well worn. But what stood out was how eager he was, he even offered to start working on the spot.

As I offered the young man, a full-time job his face showed obvious relief. He apologized again for not wearing better clothes. I assured him it was fine. There was something about him. Perhaps it was the “mom” part of me, but he looked hungry.

I offered him a meal with an off-handed remark about how he needed to learn the restaurant menu anyway since he would be cooking. He eagerly agreed. He ate as if he truly was starving.

By Jannerbros

As we worked shifts together, he began to open up about his situation. He was a foster child, knew nothing of his birth parents and though he was adopted at age 11, he was treated as a live-in servant. His bed was in the basement and not allowed to eat with the family. He was used for work.

ourworldindata - homelessness

As soon as he turned 18 he was kicked out. This was two weeks before his interview with me. He had nothing but what he was wearing. I asked him where he slept, his answer was “Well, I don’t really.”

He explained that he would go from place to place until he got kicked out. Bookstores, the library or even busy fast food places. He would nap here and there and then move on if he felt like he was in the way.

I continued to be amazed by this man. A hard worker, no doubt. He was always early and would stay as late as needed. He thrived with every bit of encouragement. And yet he had no place to live, not even a car to sleep in. It was mid-winter and very cold. I asked him why he didn’t go to a homeless shelter, he said it was full.

He’d learned compassion from his hard life. He would regularly pull scraps from the garbage to feed to stray dogs out back. When I asked him why he did that he replied with a smile, “Cause being hungry sucks!”

He pulled himself out of extreme poverty. Not everyone can do that, physical limitations or having small children can make it impossible for some. I asked him what he thought would’ve helped him most, he said “Getting paid every day, waiting for the first two weeks was so hard!”.

It doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone’s life when they have nothing. Even a kind word or sitting down to chat. If you own a business consider adding flexibility to payroll structures, allowing daily payment for the first few pay periods. This could mean the end of homelessness and hunger for so many people.

One thing he said has always stuck with me. “I don’t have all the answers, but being kind is always a good choice.”

| Written by Tricia Elliott

| Visuals by JannerBros

Check out this great multimedia story: Portraits of Homelessness