7 Ways to Help People Experiencing Homelessness Survive During Winter

Canadian winters are tough... With freezing temperatures, snowstorms, and icy roads, even a trip to the grocery store can become quite the challenge. For most of us, this weather can be annoying and inconvenient. However, for those experiencing homelessness, this weather can become a life-threatening situation.

Have you ever stopped to think about how people experiencing homelessness are dealing with this weather? With no place to escape the freezing temperatures, they are at high risk of experiencing weather-related health issues such as frostbite and hypothermia. This year more people than ever are finding themselves living below the poverty line. The rising costs of goods and services are putting an additional strain on all of us, but it especially impacts low-income families … When you must choose between feeding your family and paying rent, it’s easy to fall behind.

As an organization that provides wrap-around services and supports to those experiencing poverty and homelessness, people often turn to us when they see someone out in the cold and ask, “What can I do to help?”

Here are some ways you can help your neighbours facing life-threatening temperatures while living outside this winter.

1. Help them connect with warming centres nearby.

Ask them directly if they need help accessing a warming centre. Sometimes people choose not to go to shelters or warming centres because of the rules or fear for their safety. However, please keep in mind that The Mustard Seed shelters are a safe space for guests who can maintain sobriety. Click here to locate a TMS shelter. If they choose not to, you can still contact a local outreach patrol to check on them. You can even contact DOAP (Calgary) which offers transportation and crisis support for those struggling with addictions or experiencing homelessness. You can also offer them a bus ticket so they can get to where they would like to go. If you see someone showing signs of being dangerously impacted by the weather, please call 911 immediately.

2. Buy them something hot to drink or eat.

Offering them food or a warm drink is a good way to give directly to a person experiencing homelessness.

3. Donate winter clothing and blankets.

Doing some winter wardrobe cleaning? How about donating some of the things you don’t wear anymore to a local shelter? You can donate new or gently used items such as winter coats, scarves, socks, hats, mittens, undershirts, jeans, blankets, and layering clothes. Visit our Winter Wish List for more ideas of items you can donate!

4. Start your own fundraiser.

A great way to support your neighbours during the colder months is to host your own fundraiser. We have multiple resources showing you how you can raise money on your own for a local charity like The Mustard Seed. You can also sign up to create your own fundraiser by using our platform, Raise Hope. This website will guide you in all the right directions to raise donations for people experiencing homelessness.

5. Be kind.

When you pass a person experiencing homelessness on the street, smile and say hello! The homeless population is often ignored, so a simple gesture such as saying hi can show them that they are seen, and they are cared for.

6. Support a local organization or shelter.

Your helping hand is always welcome. Consider donating to The Mustard Seed $5.38 goes a long way in providing support for people experiencing homelessness. You can also consider volunteering at The Mustard Seed.

7. Support preventative initiatives like affordable housing options.

We must also move beyond emergency interventions and address homelessness as a long-term, broader issue. You can support our affordable housing initiatives such as our project, Ogden Hub:29 (Calgary), a 5-storey affordable housing building that will provide permanent supportive housing and wrap-around supports like health and wellness, employment coaching, and communal spaces to low-income families in Calgary. You can also support Prairie Manor (Edmonton), which provides safe, affordable housing for our guests located in Edmonton.