Helping the Homeless in the Winter: What You Can Do
For most of us, winter means holidays, family gatherings, and gift-giving.
But for people experiencing homelessness, winter is a brutal challenge. The cold weather makes life on the street even more dangerous than usual, and the societal focus on togetherness and holiday cheer can create a sense of even greater isolation.
If you would like to know how to help the homeless during winter, here are some ideas for making the greatest impact.
Donate warm clothes, socks, and blankets.Cleaning house for the cold season? Taking stock of your family’s winter wardrobe? Don’t let those coats and hats go to the trash. Shelters and individuals will be grateful for your gently used items, especially socks and blankets, which are even more necessary during the cold months.
Lead a holiday gift drive. Enlist your friends, coworkers, classmates, or social media connections in a campaign to raise money or donate items (from kids’ toys to personal hygiene products) to a local shelter. If you can, ask the shelter what items are most needed and prepare care packages that they can distribute to the people they serve.
Shop philanthropic businesses. By listing a homeless-serving organization on the Amazon Smile program, you can ensure that a portion of your purchases is donated to them. Ask your employer if they’d be willing to provide a matching donation to an organization that serves people experiencing homelessness or include local shelters in the Combined Federal Campaign if you work for the U.S. government.
Donate food, including leftovers. All shelters and soup kitchens will be grateful for donations during the holiday months, and if you over-prepare for an office party or gathering among friends, don’t let those leftovers go to waste. Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is one organization that helps redirect potential food waste to those who need it.
Call 311 when you see someone in danger. The colder it gets, the more dangerous it is for people to live unsheltered. If you see a person outside on a cold night, contact 311 to access local services and potentially save a life. Many cities have their own cold-weather homeless-serving hotlines and 211 is another common line for essential community services. If you meet an unsheltered person who is also a veteran, they can find help through 1-877-4AID-VET, while homeless teens can call the National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-RUNAWAY.
Buying The Right To Shower products is another way to help a homeless person during the winter. In the first year 100% of profits will go to mobile shower NGOs like Lava Mae, a leading nonprofit that has brought private, mobile shower units to homeless populations in many major cities. A shower can help someone get warm, stay healthy, and feel like themselves again. Especially as the temperatures drop, a warm shower can be the difference between life and death.