How To Help Homeless People In Chicago As Temperatures Plunge Below Antarctica's

by Caroline Burke
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the weather in Chicago is predicted to drop so low that it'll pose an immediate threat to anyone who stays outside for even small periods of time. Of course, this could have a lethal impact on people who can't escape the cold. So if you're wondering how to help homeless people in Chicago over the coming days, there are plenty of ways to do so.

To The New York Times, a homeless man named Tony Neeley said that he was "afraid" of the cold temperatures in Chicago. He said, “A lot of us don’t go to the shelters because of bedbugs, we don’t go because people steal from you, we don’t go because you can’t even really sleep in the shelter. But my feet are cold, and these clothes are all I’ve got.”

The city of Chicago has as many as 80,000 homeless people living within its boundaries, per The New York Times. The publication further notes that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said during a briefing on Tuesday, “No one in need of a safe or warm place to stay will be turned away. No one.”

Whether you live in Chicago or thousands of miles away, here are some ways you can help keep homeless people safe and warm when the temperatures drop to such extreme levels:

Call 311 If You See Anyone Sleeping Outdoors

If you see anyone sleeping outdoors during the day, you should dial 311 for the Homeless Prevention Call Center, where you can inform someone of the person's whereabouts to get them somewhere warm.

However, if you see anyone sleeping outside in Chicago at night, some suggest you should call 911 instead, to report their whereabouts. According to John Tribbett, a street outreach manager at a homeless shelter in Minneapolis, the temperatures in the midwest have become so dangerous that you should go straight to emergency services.

Tribbett said to The Huffington Post, "This is really a historic event in terms of the dangers it presents to people living outside. Every year people lose limbs ― ears, toes ― to frostbite. Honestly when it gets to be this cold, it’s a 911 call.”

Donate To Homeless Shelters In Chicago

Regardless of whether you live in Chicago or in another part of the country, one of the most efficient ways to help homeless people in areas hit by the polar vortex is to donate to relevant shelters.

If you use the national Homeless Shelter Directory, you can find a list of shelters based off of the state and city that you're looking to donate to.

Bring Warming Items & Clothes To Homeless Shelters & Churches In Your Area

If you live in the area, you can help keep homeless people warm by bringing warm clothes and warming items to churches and homeless shelters, including St. Sabina Church in Chicago.

As seen in the tweet above, St. Sabina will be open for donated items from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, and you can call (773) 483-4300 if you have any questions. Additionally, Another Chance Church on the South Side will also be open all night long for the next 48 hours, and is in need of blankets and pillows.

Lastly, Pacific Garden Mission is another homeless shelter that is in need of donations and expecting over 500 men, women, and children to be staying there over the coming days.

Donate To Or Volunteer At A Warming Center

Volunteers are needed in a number of capacities for Above Zero Soup Kitchen, a Chicago-based warming center and soup kitchen, as reported by activist Michael Skolnik. You can contact this warming center or other ones closer to you and see what they're in need of. From cash donations, to physical goods, to actual volunteer time, their needs might vary.

Use Lyft To Get Someone To A Warming Center, Free Of Charge

According to ABC anchor Judy Hsu, Lyft will be offering free rides to anyone in Chicago who is seeking transportation to a warming center. All you have to do is type in CHIJAYDEN19, and your ride will be free up to $25 through to Friday evening.

Of course, many people who have nowhere to live likely won't have cell phones, so this is why it's important to try to communicate with people in your community and offer to order a Lyft for someone, if you feel comfortable.

Volunteer Or Donate To The Salvation Army

Volunteers for the Salvation Army will be combing the streets of Chicago in search of homeless people in need of warming centers, CBS reports — and if those homeless people refuse transportation or housing, those volunteers will offer them gloves, hats, and other types of warm clothing.

Donating to the Salvation Army could be immensely helpful for those volunteers. Or you can volunteer yourself, as the Salvation Army Freedom Center is bracing to house as many as 100 people over the next few days, per CBS.

Ultimately, you can also keep an eye on social media reports throughout Wednesday, as shelters and warming centers will likely be providing up-to-date information as the temperatures continue to drop.