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5 Ways You Can Help Someone Escape The Cold This Winter

Winters in Toronto can be cruel. When there are 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.

In sub-zero conditions, 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.

Pandemic restrictions have added even more challenges, with many public indoor spaces running at limited capacity – essentially, keeping homeless people out of places they rely on to warm up and escape the cold.

This year, the demand for shelter beds in our city is also at an all-time high. Toronto’s shelter system remains at or near capacity most nights.

Homelessness is a desperate situation regardless of what season it is, but to be homeless during a Canadian winter can be especially harrowing.

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.

Shop Our Winter Support Catalogue

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.

Visit our Warmth Catalogue where you can browse and donate the most needed items for people experiencing homelessness and living in poverty to escape cold this winter.

Your charitable donation will go to support our shelters, drop-ins and emergency respite. That means warm clothing, warm meals, and a warm, safe place for people to stay when the temperatures fall below freezing. Browse now!

Be Kind!

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.


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