For most of us, the worst part of the blizzard was mild cabin fever. But for homeless people, it was potentially life-threatening. When you don't know where you're going to sleep at night, that issue is aggravated by extreme weather conditions that make transport difficult and treacherous.
The second-worst blizzard in city history is over, but its effects on the homeless population will be felt for some time. Here are a few ways you can help make homeless New Yorkers' lives a little bit better in the coming days.
Call 311 ... or 911
311 is the official hotline of New York City's homeless outreach team, HOME-STAT, which partners with nonprofits around the city to connect service workers with homeless people in need. You should call them if you are concerned about the safety of a homeless person in a non-emergency situation. For emergencies, make sure to call 911 directly.
Send A Coat
The snow may have passed, but the temperatures haven't. You can buy a coat for a homeless person from the Coalition for the Homeless' Amazon wishlist or donate a gently worn coat at an outpost near Grand Central station.
There are a number of organizations working every day for homeless New Yorkers who can benefit from your donation. The Coalition for the Homeless sends its vans out to deliver food and blankets across the city and hasn't missed a night in 30 years. Plus, shelters like the NYC Rescue Mission, the Bowery Mission and Covenant House have to work extra hard to stay supplied through the winter.
Volunteer Your Time
You can also support homeless charities in a hands-on way during the winter months. All the organizations listed above could use a helping hand. You can also volunteer at Women in Need, which helps stabilize families, Picture the Homeless, which provides job training services, or the Ali Forney Fund, which helps LGBTQ youth.
If you can't give anything else, you can still respond with compassion. Many people don't recognize panhandlers as humans even on a regular day, as Everyday Feminism has written, and kindness may be in even shorter supply when we are surrounded by slush and other irritants. Don't forget to recognize and respect the humanity of homeless people, in any season.
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