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Leader of the Month: Alicia Horton

Posted on 15 December 2017

Hey YXU!

Now that winter is finally upon us, I thought I’d share some tips about how you can help your neighbors in need when the temperature drops. We send this information out to all of our supporters and make it available to our clients. You never know when you’ll need to share this information and when it’s this cold, it could be the difference between life and death.

Thankfully, Washington, DC has a long-standing law that requires the city to provide shelter for everyone when the temperature is below 32 degrees. DC isn’t the only city that has a law like this. I encourage you to find out if your city does and if not, ask your city officials and representatives to establish one. While this law is a great step in making sure everyone stays safe during the winter, there are many other things we can do to help!

Call the Hypothermia Hotline

The shelter law doesn’t provide much use if people need to know where to go. In DC, we have a hotline number – (202) 399-7093 – that anyone can call when they see someone who needs shelter. You can also email uposh@upo.org or even tweet at @DCHypothermia. If you’re not in DC, check out the resources that are available in your area! Many have hotlines for people who need help and it’s a good idea to keep that number handy.

Donate new or gently used warm winter clothing

Life is hard on the streets. Many who sleep outside are at constant risk of having things stolen, without many opportunities to wash clothing (Thrive DC is one of only six places in DC that provides free showers and free laundry).

When you donate warm coats, hats, scarves, and gloves you ensure that the homeless community has what they need to survive. Remember to wash everything before you donate it! And if you wouldn’t wear something yourself, there’s a good chance no one else would want to wear it either. (Just because someone is homeless doesn’t mean they’re without dignity!)

Volunteer

Shelters and homeless services programs are busiest during the winter months. More people are coming in for meals, referral services, clothing, and shelter. And with an increase in clients, staff can become overwhelmed in the winter. Even signing up for one volunteer shift a month at a local organization can make it easier for staff to serve more clients.

Advocate

No one has to be homeless. Montgomery County, Maryland (just outside DC) has ended chronic homelessness among veterans by using a strategy called “Housing First.” It’s been proven as an effective and cheap way to help people who have fallen on hard times get their lives back together. While it’s becoming more popular, we need more voices advocating for cities to commit to this strategy.

Housing First is just one issue for homeless advocates. There are many systemic causes that contribute to people becoming homeless such as a low minimum wage, lack of affordable housing, and an insufficient safety net. I encourage you to talk to the people you meet to see what they consider a priority!

Stay warm out there, everyone! And remember, there is a lot you can do to help!

Alicia

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