Cold Weather Challenges prove especially difficult for those already struggling to survive
This winter has already delivered historic snowfall and freezing temperatures—challenging circumstances for all, but especially for those experiencing homelessness or struggling to survive in Minnesota. We asked a few staff to share insight into how they are working to support our clients in the midst of extreme weather conditions:
Dani Horan, Homeless Elders Team:
“Anybody with ambulation issues—meaning if they use a cane or a walker—isn’t getting around the city at all today. Things aren’t plowed, shoveled, nothing’s cleared. And when the plows do come through, they make huge snow mounds that obstruct sidewalks and crosswalks. We have a client who needed to have a lease signing rescheduled again today because staff can’t come into the housing site. I just took another client over to the Social Security office, and the doors are locked. The snow impacts pretty much everything—access to anything and everything that they need.”
Mohamed Jama, Minneapolis Opportunity Center:
“We had a gentleman come in with just a sweater on—he had two trash bags with him, and said that somebody took his tent when he was asleep. Everything, even the clothes he had as a backup, were completely just soaked from the snow. He was shivering. I was able to take him downstairs, put him in the shower, get him a change of clothes, let him do his own laundry, and give him just a couple of minutes to gather himself. I got him some coffee and the guy said it’s the first time he was able to sleep in a couple of days, and that he’s struggling with addiction. He said he’s been contemplating going sober, but he feels like every time he takes a step forward, he gets pushed back five steps. It’s kind of heartbreaking but we see things like that every day.”
Rachel Silver, Endeavors Residence:
“Many of our residents only get $121 a month for personal needs, and they stretch that to cover medication copays, bus fare, clothing, and anything else they might need. Every winter we see an uptick in the number of people who have lost toes or have extreme frostbite—warm socks and a pair of boots seem like a pretty easy fix, but it’s not when you are living on a very small budget and you have other needs to meet. I think it’s important to be aware that some folks have to be super planful, months in advance, just to buy clothing—because you can’t buy underwear AND socks or you can’t buy a coat AND boots. Our residents really do depend on clothing donations like these.”
Chris Michels, Director of Housing Stabilization & Opportunity:
“Constantly having to focus on getting your basic needs met doesn’t leave much room for enjoyment or pleasure, so on days that we experience heavy snowfall or dangerously cold temperatures, it is especially important for empathy, compassion and hospitality to be at the forefront of our operations.”
SO WHAT CAN COMMUNITY MEMBERS DO TO HELP?
Addressing our current homelessness crisis requires all of us working together to:
Support Our Neighbors Currently Experiencing Homelessness
– Contribute financially to programs that provide pathways out of poverty.
– Donate high-need items that help people keep themselves safe & rebuild their lives.
– Volunteer at a program location, using your time to remind others that they matter.
Create Systems that Allow People to More Easily Attain & Sustain Stable Housing
– Help us advocate for a more just community — it’s easier than you’d think to make a difference.
– Learn more about issues surrounding homelessness, and share what you learn with friends and family.
Thank you for your interest — together we can create a better future for all Minnesotans!
Director of Marketing and Communications