As winter gets harsher and the holidays approach, you may be wondering what you can do to help those experiencing homelessness in your community? Here are four things each of us can do:
Know that emergency shelters aren’t the only solution
Although temporary winter shelters open in most cities this season, most shelters are overwhelmed when the temperature drops.
However, lack of space in shelters is not the only reason homeless people decide not to stay there. It just doesn’t suit some people issues such as claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and mental illnesses can prevent people from taking refuge indoors.
Find out if there is a warming centre nearby
Extreme temperatures can be very dangerous. Although some will refuse to go to find shelter inside, passers-by will still ask them if they want to stay warm.
As a community of responsible citizens, we can ask the individual directly if they want to go inside, and if they refuse, we can call an outreach service or a street patrol to ask them to come to assess the situation. Give them blankets, clothes, and hot drinks if they insist on staying outside.
Donate winter clothes or blankets
If you have extra blankets or winter coats, donate to an emergency shelter or local donation centre.
The homeless are covered with layers of clothing to keep warm: leggings, scarves, warm socks, good quality hats, gloves, vests, and jeans are all recommended gifts for cold weather.
In general, it is recommended that you call the organization ahead of time to find out what they need or if they even need anything. Sometimes shelters and charities operate in a tight space, and staff cannot always handle all of the donations they receive.
Support a local organization or shelter
If you have the time, consider volunteering with an organization or shelter that helps people experiencing homelessness. Most of these places always need extra help, especially during the winter.
If you don’t have a lot of time to donate, you can also offer financial support to these organizations. Each of them describes how they use these funds (usually in their reports on their website) so that you know exactly where your money is going.
Use your voice to promote these initiatives! Vote for representatives who advocate an excellent strategy to tackle homelessness, build affordable housing, and write a letter to those who don’t. Connect with like-minded people or community organizations concerned about homelessness and affordable housing, as they often have outreach campaigns that you can participate in. When it comes to ending homelessness, every effort counts.