As January comes to a close, several states, particularly in the Midwest, are experiencing their coldest temperatures in decades. The freezing temperatures have caused schools and businesses to shut down, and there could be deadly consequences for those caught outdoors in the subzero weather—homeless people especially are at risk. The Weather Channel reports that Midwestern cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Madison will be hit the hardest in this deep freeze. Many places across the region are set to experience their lowest temperatures in more than 20 years, with wind chills causing the temperature to dip as low as 60 degrees below zero in some places.
According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, about 80,000 homeless people are currently living in Chicago. The city plans to add 500 shelter beds through this week. Two 24-hour warming centers have been opened, and four pre-existing warming centers have extended hours. Police stations, libraries, and park facilities are also doubling as warming centers. The Detroit Free Press reports that Detroit has four warming centers available. Additionally, several libraries and recreation centers will provide people with shelter from the brutal weather.
If you know or see someone who is homeless, helping them find a warming center can be a good course of action. In Chicago, you can dial 311 to locate a center or visit www.keepwarmillinois.gov, which has information about warming centers across the state. In Detroit, you should contact the Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED) at 313-628-2451. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in Wisconsin, you should call 211 or visit it online for information about warming centers.
Lyft is also offering free rides to warming centers in Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Madison.
Donating directly to shelters or to charities offering warming centers is one of the best ways to help the homeless right now. In Minnesota, HOPE 4 Youth and The Bridge for Youth are two nonprofits offering shelter to young people during the freezing weather. Some organizations have wish lists that you can check if you want to give supplies. Otherwise, donating money is always a good option. Check with shelters or charities where you live to see what they need.
Of course, this list is far from exhaustive, but it’s a place to start. Stay safe, everyone.