The Top 5 Most Effective Ways to Help the Homeless This Winter

Winter is the hardest time for our homeless community. When the temperature dips below freezing it creates a severe risk for hypothermia, and the consequences can be fatal. Thankfully, DC has a long-standing law that requires the city to provide shelter for the homeless when the temperature is below 32 degrees.

While the city does its part, there are many things we can do to help the homeless survive this winter. Here are the 5 most effective ways you can help the homeless in our community.

1. Call the Hypothermia Hotline

It doesn’t do much good to provide shelter if the people who need it most don’t know where to go.shelters

Find out where you can point people to stay when it’s too cold outside. Many already know, but there are also many homeless individuals who struggle with mental illness and need help to get there.

If you see someone who needs shelter, you can call (202) 399-7093 or 211, email [email protected], or tweet at @DCHypothermia to have someone come pick them up.

2. Give Warm Winter Clothes

Life is hard on the streets. Many who sleep outside are at constant risk of having things stolen, without many opportunities to wash clothing (Thrive DC is one of only six places that provides free showers and free laundry).

When you donate warm coats, hats, scarves, and gloves you ensure that our homeless community has what they need to survive.

If you have surplus gear you would like to donate, please contact Greg at (202) 503-1528 or [email protected].

3. Donate

Shelters and homeless outreach programs are busiest during the winter months. More people are coming in for meals, referral services, clothing, and shelter. You can support homeless case managers on the front lines by making a special donation during the winter months, or signing up to provide a recurring donation throughout the year that they can count on.

4. Volunteer

With an increase in clients, social service staff can become overwhelmed in the winter. Even signing up for one volunteer shift a month at a shelter or kitchen can make it easier for the staff to see more clients. If you would like to volunteer at Thrive DC individually or with a group, please contact Greg at (202) 503-1528 or [email protected].

5. Advocate

No one has to be homeless. Montgomery County has ended chronic homelessness among veterans by using a strategy called “Housing First.” It’s been proven as an effective and cheap way to help people who have fallen on hard times get their lives back together. While it’s becoming more popular, we need more voices advocating for cities to commit to this strategy.

Housing First is just one issue for homeless advocates. There are many systemic causes that contribute to people becoming homeless such as a low minimum wage, lack of affordable housing, and an insufficient safety net. I encourage you to talk to the people you meet on the streets and in shelters to see what they consider a priority!


By | 2017-02-22T19:45:25+00:00 January 5th, 2016|Blog, Donate, Homelessness, Thrive DC, Volunteer|3 Comments


  1. Thrive DC January 14, 2015 at 11:31 am - Reply

    […] For more ways to help the homeless this winter, see our blog post “5 Most Effective Ways to Help the Homeless This Winter.“ […]

  2. November 10, 2015 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would never understand.

    It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post,
    I will try to get the hang of it!

  3. Luke Smith November 15, 2016 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    I appreciate how you listed several different ways to help out those in need this winter. A recurring donation or giving warm clothes might not be feasible for everyone, so your suggestions to volunteer at a shelter or kitchen, or even advocate housing initiatives were really thoughtful. I would imagine meeting with a representative at a local shelter would be a good way to figure out which type of aid is most needed in your area.

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