Communities Need to Take Action To Help the Homeless

Homeless people are left in freezing temperatures and our communities aren’t doing enough to help them.



Pastor John Steger, with Grace In The City church, embraces Jearline Cyrus, a homeless woman, in downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday night, Jan. 29, 2019 while delivering cold-weather gear, hot chocolate and food with Minneapolis Police Sgt. Grant Snyder. (Aaron Lavinsky/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Kamryn Rogers, Features Editor

As temperatures continue to drop this winter, the homeless are left most vulnerable to the cold weather. This leaves them prone to frostbite, trench foot and hypothermia. Hypothermia and trench foot can occur in temperatures even as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the  National Weather Service. Add on starvation, sleep deprivation and below freezing temperatures they face and there’s a national crisis.

At night or in the cold, homeless people move from the streets into the city’s homeless shelters, but there is a handful of people who don’t go to shelters due to extensive waiting lists, past traumatic experiences or because most don’t allow you to bring a lot of valuables inside the shelters. The January 2018 Point-in-Time count, the most recent national estimate of homelessness in the United States, identified 552,830 people experiencing homelessness. In Kansas City alone, there are about 1,671 people homeless on a given night. Those numbers may seem scary, but even the smallest contributions can make a difference.

This past week in Chicago, more than 100 homeless people unexpectedly were given food, toiletries, care packages, fresh clothes and a place to stay after a local real estate broker intervened after temperatures dropped to life-threatening lows. Candice Payne who is only 34 years old contacted hotels and found 30 rooms available at a local inn. She asked people on her Instagram account to help with transportation to get the homeless off the streets. She paid for all the rooms on her credit card but many others donated to her cause, sending money to her Cash App account and by paying directly to the inn to help with the fees. The manager at the inn said what started out as 30 rooms doubled to 60. In all, Payne has spent about $4,700 on the rooms and other materials. She mentioned that she is not rich and that helping those in need is not unattainable if we all work together, according to CNN. This is a prime example of how taking action can spark change and inspire others to do the same.

States like Maine, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts shelter at least 95 percent of people experiencing homelessness, according to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. This contrasts to California, Oregon and Nevada who don’t shelter over 55 percent of their homeless population, with California leaving almost 70 percent of people out on the streets at night.

Our communities need to put more effort into providing for their homeless populations. Half of all people experiencing homelessness were in one of five states: California, New York, Florida, Texas or Washington, according to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the cost of living in those cities are some of the highest in the country. 48 zip codes in the Bay Area are on a list of the 100 most expensive in the U.S. Regional leaders have a comprehensive agenda to address the challenges of low-wage workers by creating pathways for them to access quality jobs and break down the economic barriers between the low, middle and upper classes in their community. Other regional leaders need to experiment with new ideas so that everyone can achieve economic security.

There are many stigmas placed on those who are homeless when in reality, homelessness can happen to anyone. All it takes is one medical bill, one loss of a spouse or a job for someone to lose their homes. We need to act more as a community to help raise these people back up when they are down. Take time, especially this winter, to round up any spare blankets or warm clothes that could be donated to shelters or given directly to those in need. Make a night out of making care packages that have non-perishable in them. All these things will help to keep the homeless alive this winter. The Micah Ministry, Hope Faith Ministries, Kansas City Rescue Mission and reStart  are all places that accept donations and are always in need of volunteers, for anyone looking for a place to start.