Here's How To Help The Homeless During The Polar Vortex, Because This Is Bad
One thing is for certain, this polar vortex is no joke y'all. Since Wednesday, Jan. 30, residents all across the United States have had to withstand freezing temperatures and even chillier winds. Even though this ordeal isn't set to last for much longer, it's impacted people all across the country, but especially the Midwest. So, for those enjoying sunnier temperatures (I'm looking at you Florida and California), you might be wondering: how can you help people affected by the polar vortex? Here's what to know.
Currently, residents all across the United States, but mainly the Midwest, are dealing with freezing temperatures, with wind chills hitting as low as -65 degrees in parts of Minnesota, according to USA Today. Even though some Midwesterners have been trying to make the most out of a truly chilling situation, such as filming themselves throwing boiling hot water into the air to make snow, this cold weather is becoming extremely dangerous. In fact, on Wednesday, Jan. 30, Iowan news channel Fox 28 reported that several people have died, including a University of Iowa college student who was reportedly found unresponsive outside a college building. And while for many of us the cold weather is just an uncomfortable inconvenience, the situation can be deadly for homeless individuals, who may not have warm shelters to hide from the cold. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimates that there are some 80,000 homeless people in the area, per The New York Times.
We can't stop the weather from doing its thing, but we can do our part to help those impacted by this massive cold front. So, here's what to know and what to do.
Ride Share Service Are Offering Free Rides To Warming Centers
According to the Chicago Tribune, ride share services Lyft and Uber will offer free rides to Chicago warming centers for residents. On Tuesday, Jan. 29, Lyft announced that it would offer free rides up to $25 to warming centers as long as residents used the code "CHIJAYDEN19." This deal will last up to Friday, Feb. 1. That same day, Uber announced it would offer a similar deal offering free rides to warming centers up to $50 through Thursday, Jan. 31, as long as members used the code "DFSS" code.
So, for those Chicago natives looking to escape the cold and warm up, at least these apps have got you covered. However, not everyone has a smartphone, and therefore isn't able to request these services, so, if you see someone in need, it might be good to call them a car.
Sure, the polar vortex is uncomfortable for all of us, but nothing compares to how this is impacting homeless populations across the United States. Unlike us, these individuals can't go home and enjoy a hot chocolate to warm up from the cold. So, if you see a homeless person out in the cold, make sure to call 311 so you can find out where the nearest shelter or local warming center is. Then, with that nifty Uber and Lyft promotion, you can transport them there without spending a dime.
Remember, stay informed and if you see something, do something.
Even though this act of service can be done all year round, it's never been more important that people are stocked up on winter clothes, be it coats, scarves, hats, or gloves. Not sure where the nearest clothing donation center is to you? Lucky for us, there's a number of donation spaces that we can choose from, and all it takes is a quick Google search to find out where they are. Also important to think about? If the clothes you're looking to donate will be useful in extreme temperatures. Think long underwear, gloves, and waterproof outer layers. (You can also check and see if aid organizations have online wish lists, which will tell you what items are most needed and wanted.)
So, embrace your inner Marie Kondo and start getting rid of those clothes that don't spark joy, because they're bound to spark joy (and warmth) into a number of people's lives during this polar vortex, and the rest of winter.
Put Together & Pass Out Emergency Kits
In this world, you never know when an emergency could suddenly come up. So, it's important to be prepared. Most of us may have a standard emergency kit at home, but during this polar vortex it's important to have these supplies on you at all times, to either help yourself or help people around you. As a way to help homeless populations in Chicago, Illinois, many residents are putting together emergency hygiene kits that consist of essentials such as deodorant, toothpaste, lip balm, and other materials.
Even if you're not in Chicago at the moment, you can still take notes from The Night Ministry and put together your own emergency kits: one for you, and a few for those in need.
Donate To Your City's Homeless Shelters
It may seem like homeless shelters are an easy solution for the homeless, but that's hardly the case. In order to keep these shelters afloat in emergencies, money is necessary to make sure these facilities have the means to provide lodging, food, and other resources. In order to ensure that your (or any other) city's homeless shelters have the funds they need, consider donating so that these organizations can increase accessibility and provide beds for more homeless residents. You can find local shelters — in Chicago or elsewhere — by searching the Homeless Shelter Directory website. Or, if you don't have a way to give money, you can still help out by donating food, clothes, and other home goods that could go towards a great cause.
Of course, just because the polar vortex is drawing everyone's attention doesn't mean the need to help will stop when the weather warms. Below-zero temperatures sound scary, but cold temperatures can be dangerous the rest of the year, too — so even as the temperatures warm, your help is still needed. When it comes to the winter, a little bit of help goes a long way.