Six Tips On How You Can Help Homeless During The Cold Months
Winters in Canada can be cruel. When there’s sub-zero temperatures, or a snowstorm, or icy road conditions, it’s a struggle to be outside even for a short amount of time. So, it’s hard not to think about how difficult it is for people who have no way to escape the elements when winter rears its ugly head.
Homelessness is a desperate situation regardless of what season it is, but to be homeless during a Canadian winter can be especially harrowing.
This winter alone, there have been 19 cold weather alerts issued by the City of Toronto. These alerts come when Environment Canada forecasts a temperature of -15° C or below. In conditions like these, there’s a high risk of weather-related health problems, such as frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia. And people who are homeless are especially at risk.
During the winter, City-operated shelters see an increase in visits and often work at or over their capacity. At our 24/7 Emergency Respite at 545 Lake Shore Blvd. West, we see over 200 people every night.
As an organization that supports the City’s homeless population, people often turn to us when they see someone out in the cold and ask, “What can I do to help?”
Here’s What You Can Do
Save a Life
If you feel that someone is in immediate danger (exposed skin, signs of frostbite, unconscious or unresponsive) during an extreme cold weather alert or particularly inclement weather, call 911.
If you see someone sleeping on the street, connect with street outreach by dialing 311. The City coordinates a street outreach service where workers will visit people staying outside to offer them help.
Buy Something Hot to Eat or Drink
If you want to give directly to a person who is homeless, then buying them food and a warm drink are a good idea. It’s an easy way to show some kindness and can help them make it through the day without going hungry.
Make and Hand Out Care Packages
There are a few everyday essentials that a person needs to live and function that may be out of reach for someone who is homeless.
Here are some items that can be put into care packages that will help give them a boost: fruit (apples, bananas, and pears), granola bars, pre-packaged cookies, pre-packaged cheese and crackers, packaged chocolates – and other foods that don’t require refrigeration; water bottles; warm socks and gloves; toiletries; gift cards to a local grocery store; lip balm; a hand written note with a message of kindness.
Give Warm Coats, Boots and Clothing to a Shelter
Some people enter our shelters with almost nothing. There have been people who have walked through our doors during a freezing cold night without a coat, or a hat, or even shoes on their feet.
During the winter months, we are always in need of warm winter coats, long pants, boots, sweaters, hats and mittens. Here is the list of most needed items at homeless shelters.
Donate to Charity
The best way to help is to make a monetary donation to a charity that supports the homeless population. These donations allow charities to act fast and respond to people’s needs more efficiently than other donations.
Your donation will go to support our shelters and emergency respite. That means warm clothing, warm meals, and a warm, safe place for people to stay when the temperatures fall below freezing.
Always.When you pass a homeless person who is out on the street, smile and say hello. It’s a simple gesture that reminds someone that they are still human – and not invisible.
Now, it’s up to you. Let’s do something and help people who are homeless this winter.