As the Polar Vortex wreaks havoc throughout much of the U.S., the homeless population is at dire risk of hypothermia. If you see someone on the street who needs help, here’s what you can do:

Direct them to shelters:

The homeless are vulnerable since they often don’t have a regular shelter to go to, or it may be full and because very often they don’t have warm clothing or shoes.

“Anything under 40 degrees Fahrenheit is considered cold,” Kevin Hall, program director for the Salvation Army in Atlanta. “On the norm, we check the weather around 4 p.m. and if it’s going to be cold, we let people in our shelters know to be prepared.” In this brutally cold weather, many shelters are overflowing so churches and even some schools have opened at night to house the homeless.

Call shelter hotlines

New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington and Baltimore along with many other cities, maintain a 311 number to report a person who needs help on the street and that can connect you to homeless outreach teams.

In some cases, you can call 211 which connects to essential community services.

Ask if the homeless person is a veteran since the Veterans Administration also has support services specifically for former service members.

Not sure about the numbers in your area, say L.A.? Ask at any police station or call the dispatch number and request help.

Donate warm coats and supplies

At this time of year, coats, blankets, and boots are in high demand. Many homeless shelters pass out coats to those who come in without one.

As always, mini hygiene items such as toothpaste, shampoo, and body wash are also good to donate. Please don’t donate full-sized bottles since that’s too much for a homeless person to cart around. Another great idea is to donate gift cards which shelters and community outreach programs can distribute.

A man rests on top of a subway vent grate as a tourist walks past in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5.

About The Author


Evan Hosie has worked as a Women's Lifestyle editor/writer (expert in the beauty and fashion vertical); created the Pop Culture section for; never met a gadget she didn't want; and spends too much time on Social Media.

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