Homeless for the Holidays: volunteers work to get hundreds off the streets as temperatures drop

Nearly 20% unable to get indoors during winter
Homeless for the Holidays: volunteers work to get hundreds off the streets as temperatures drop

It’s cold outside, but imagine having to face this cold weather 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Homelessness is always a concern, that’s heightened especially in the winter months.

The Homeless Services Consortium reported more than 600 people experiencing homelessness in Dane County during their “point in time” count in winter 2017-18, up 5 percent from the previous year. Of those, 84 people were found sleeping outside instead of in a shelter.

Volunteers and leaders from the Beacon homeless shelter in Madison said these recent cold temperatures are dangerous, even deadly. That shelter serves an average of 225 people each day, but when the weather gets colder, that number goes up.

“When it gets below freezing, when the temperature dips below 16 degrees like it did this morning, now you start to worry about hypothermia and illness, and those are killers in the homeless community,” said Jackson Fonder, president of Catholic Charities.

The Beacon said they rely on donations of hats, gloves, coats, and boots to give homeless people the warmth they need to survive the winter.

“One of the things we do is try to get our hands on gloves and scarves and hats and boots, so through the winter, we’ll be handing those out so we can arm our guests with as much protection as we can give them,” said Fonder.

This is just the second winter the Beacon has been operating, and Fonder said they learned a lot last winter. He now hopes they can use that to help the hundreds of locals who rely on their services.

If you or someone you know is homeless, or you would just like to help people in the community who don’t have a place to call home, visit the Beacon’s website here.

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