Freezing temperatures put thousands of people across the nation at risk for hypothermia and frostbite every winter. On a single night in January 2015, 43 percent of homeless individuals in the United States were living in unsheltered locations. And for those with access to shelter, many of the same winter risks still apply, as many go without amenities such as winter clothing items and heat due to extra costs. Here are a few ways to make a difference this winter by ensuring your communities remain safe and warm.
Hold a coat drive.
A coat can make the difference between life and death when temperatures outside are below freezing. But for many people, a decent coat is too expensive. Help your community organize, volunteer for, or donate items to a coat drive this winter to make sure we all make it through the season. For one dollar, One Warm Coat, an operation that supports over 3,000 coat drives each year, can provide a coat to two people in need. The organization also welcomes volunteers to its drives and shares resources on how to successfully hold your own drive. Read our own DIY guide to learn more about how to organize your first coat drive.
“Scarf-bomb” your community.
The town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania took a winter-survival initiative to a whole new creative level by organizing the Wrap Up Project, a “scarf-bombing” operation that places handmade scarves and other items for people to find and take within various public spaces. If you’re an avid knitter, crocheter, sewer or weaver, this volunteer opportunity could be the perfect outlet for your handmade creations.
Think beyond outerwear.
When we think of caring for the homeless and preparing them for the winter, warm clothing items are the first to come to mind. However, coats, stocking caps and gloves aren’t enough to survive and manage the season. That’s why Project Winter Survival has dedicated the past 17 years to collecting and distributing 27,000 “Winter Survival Kits” to those in need. With necessities such as sleeping bags, lip balm, insulated cups and bottled water, Project Winter Survival goes above and beyond what we traditionally view as winter items. Visit the website to get inspiration and information on how to head your winter-kit drive.
Check on the neighbors.
For seniors with certain illnesses, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, Parkinson’s disease and arthritis, the body may limit the response to cold. Even with access to shelter, temperatures as high as 65 can cause hypothermia in older people. Help curb these risk by getting involved with local community leaders to develop an action plan for when temperatures drop. This plan could include a list of at-risk community members for whom you check on regularly, or a blanket drive for seniors ahead of storms.
While you’re out there, you can also help your neighbors save money on energy and keep their homes toasty and warm with this DIY guide.
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