Cold Weather Survival: Tips For Defending Our Communities Against The Cold

(Photo: John Picken)

As some of you know by now, we have transformed our upcoming action for Bresha Meadows, scheduled for Wednesday, December 14, into an interactive, online art exhibition. We are bringing the action online, and out of the cold, to keep the event accessible and our community safe. Since we believe it is our duty to care for and protect one another, we have also put together a short list of ways you can look out for vulnerable community members as temperatures plunge in the coming days. No one should freeze to death in Chicago, but every year, dozens of lives are lost this way. So let’s bring love, protection and warmth everywhere that we can.

This list was adapted from one that one of our organizers has circulated in years past, with some new helpful additions. Our thanks to those who offered suggestions and ideas.

1. Know where the nearest warming center is in your area. In Chicago, these centers are open 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Friday (these hours may be extended during extreme weather events and we will update this post with that information as we receive it):

Chicago Department of Family & Support Services Warming Centers

 Garfield Center (Open 24/7)
10 S. Kedzie Ave.
Chicago, IL 60612

Englewood Center
1140 W. 79th Street
Chicago, IL 60620

King Center
4314 S. Cottage Grove
Chicago, IL 60653

North Area
845 W. Wilson Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

South Chicago
8650 S. Commercial Ave.
Chicago, IL 60617

Trina Davila
4357 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60639

2. It may be difficult to find a listing of homeless shelters that actually have open beds during harsh weather. Many will be running at full capacity. If someone is in great need of a place to sleep, ask if they are willing to let you call 311 so you can ask about available options.

3. If the person says that they would not feel safe going to a warming center (there are any number of reasons that this might be the case), try to be aware of other options such as public libraries, which usually remain open during the harsh weather. To find the nearest Chicago Public Library, click here.

4. If a person in need says that they would not feel safe going to an overnight shelter, the el train might be an option. Remember, in extreme weather, $2.25 could keep someone alive, so consider carrying an extra Ventra card. Police or Chicago transit personnel are generally advised not to remove houseless people from the city’s train lines during extreme weather, but giving them a card with an extra fare on it can help ensure they can get back on if they are forced to exit.

5. Know where to find resources regarding tenants’ rights during cold weather. In Chicago, the Metropolitan Tenants Organization is a good place to start.

6. If you have extra gloves, hats, scarves, or other warm weather gear, consider packing them into a bag and keeping them with you while you’re out and about this week. If you see someone in need, offer them the extra gear. Your extra gloves might save someone’s fingers from frostbite.

7. Offer to shovel any snow accumulation or run essential errands for people who are too vulnerable to be out in the cold. The elderly, or those with compromised health or mobility may need some mutual aid during harsh weather.

8. Know what the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite look like, and when to seek medical attention for those afflicted.

9. If you know someone is relying on a space heater for warmth, make sure they have access to these space heater safety tips, and that they know never to use an extension cord with a space heater.

10. Circulate this information, and any other options or ideas you come across.

Remember to look out for each other. It’s going to get rough out there.

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