How To Support Chicago's Homeless Shelters That Are Helping People Stay Out Of This Cold

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Since Monday, a dangerously cold polar vortex has gripped massive swaths of the Midwest, including Chicago. Meteorologists have urged people to stay inside their homes, avoid traveling, and keep winter survival kits nearby in the case of an emergency. For homeless individuals who don't have their own place to take refuge in, this weather can pose an even bigger threat. But there are ways you can help homeless shelters in Chicago.

According to CNN weather analysts Brandon Miller and Judson Jones, a polar vortex packs multiple and extremely cold winds, originating in the Arctic region. These winds typically circulate in their northern home but when distorted, which happened in this case, the winds change their direction. Weather experts predict that this particular polar vortex will last until Thursday evening.

In the meantime, homeless shelters are trying their best to help those who don't have a place to stay. In Chicago, where temperatures are as low as some 20 degrees below zero, the city's biggest homeless shelter, Pacific Garden Mission, suspended its policy of taking in long-term visitors and opened its doors to at least 800 people on Tuesday night. The shelter's president, Philip Kwiatkowski, told The Chicago Sun-Times, "There’s no restrictions right now. We’re letting everybody in."

As the cold continues to engulf Chicago, there are a few ways to help shelters in need of items, money, volunteers, and more.

1. Donate Food And Supplies

davidhogg111 on Twitter

Parkland survivor and gun control activist David Hogg tweeted Tuesday about Chicago's Faith Community of Saint Sabina looking to help the city's homeless by providing them warm items like blankets. If you have clean blankets, jackets, socks, and more items that can help fight the cold, you can donate them to the organization.

Some homeless shelters in Chicago, like the Franciscan Outreach, are accepting of non-perishable foods as well, to help feed the people seeking shelter there.

2. Donate Money To A Shelter

jordanuhl on Twitter

At least six people across the Midwest have died as a result of the cold. Under such circumstances, organizations like the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless have turned to raising money on crowdsourcing platforms like CrowdRise. If you're able to, consider donating what you can.

Other shelters like the Night Ministry nonprofit, which work to improve the lives of young people who are homeless, is also accepting donations here.

3. Donate To A Warming Center

michaelskolnik on Twitter

Warming centers, which are short-term emergency centers opened in extremely cold weather, often need an extra pair of hands. Chicago's warming center, Above Zero Soup Kitchen, is one of those centers looking for volunteers. Learn more here.

4. Check The National Homeless Shelter Directory

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you want to help a smaller shelter that may not have gotten a shoutout on social media, check out the national Homeless Shelter Directory. It can give you the exact names, locations, numbers, and more information on shelters seeking donations.

5. Check GoFundMe

salarmychicago on Twitter

Considering how desperate the conditions have become under this polar vortex, the crowdsourcing website GoFundMe is bound to have calls for donations to help the homeless. One of those donation posts, by Khloe Thompson, is directing all donations to Salvation Army Chicago. You can learn more by checking out the main page for the project.

6. Donate Personal Care Products To Shelters

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Homeless shelters frequently need personal care products, including soap, deodorant, baby wipes, toothbrushes, clean underwear, and more. Feminine hygiene products like pads and tampons are especially needed, as homeless women often don't have access to them.

With many shelters opening their doors to people in this weather, it's likely to put a strain on resources. You can help by donating money for feminine hygiene products and other items by reaching out to organizations like The Chicago Period Project, which helps the homeless.

7. Raise Awareness On Social Media

Bethany Clarke/Getty Images News/Getty Images

More often than not, organizations that help the homeless rely on social networks to ask for donations, volunteers, and more. If you have a large network of friends and acquaintances on social media, use your voice to amplify the message for these shelters.

8. Volunteer

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Compassion can go a long way. If you aren't able to help financially, you can still offer to volunteer at a homeless shelter. These places often need people to help run food banks, serve meals, and sometimes simply talk to homeless people under stress. Check out for volunteering opportunities posted by the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

If you don't have the money to donate to such shelters, you don't need to worry. There's still a lot more you can do. For instance, if you see someone sleeping outside in this weather, you can call 311, the Homeless Prevention Call Center, for help. Or, if you have extra items that can help beat the cold, consider donating them forward. These steps may seem small, but they could save someone from this deadly cold.