Opinions

Seeing the Outside View: Winter’s Vicious Assault on the Homeless

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KID CLUTCH/ FLICKR

Kaetlyn Dembkoski
Staff Writer

Winter; a time spent by many enjoying warm seasonal beverages, gathering for holiday celebrations, and planning for new beginnings. For some though, these pictures may be the farthest things from their minds as they struggle to just get by.

As a non-native North Carolinian myself, the image of winter has never been more than just a passing thought of inconvenient piles of snow and ice thoroughly coating the roads, but for others, the imminent threat that winter poses is one that is unpredictably dangerous. This is especially true for those who do not have a place to reside while the snow does its damage.

Homelessness affects thousands of people every year. Regardless of what the reason for the person or people unable to maintain secure and safe housing, homelessness leaves individuals vulnerable to the elements in a manner that cannot be compared to an inability to get home.

These people, sometimes singular individuals, but more often families, are left to struggle in getting by on a normal day. Eventually though, winter comes around and becomes an extended obstacle that leaves those without a place to hide from it in dire trouble.

According to the Greensboro Day Center, “every night in Greensboro, more than 900 people go to sleep homeless.” In just one North Carolina town, a large section of the population is found to not have a home. While some of these people have dealt with multiple winters, others haven’t ever experienced the vehement ice storms and frigid nights unprotected when winter gets truly underway.

In their attempts to count the number of people they found homeless during the winter months, Partners Ending Homelessness searched Guildford county and found a rough total of 949 people with 201 of those people being children “on any given night.”

In many cases, homelessness is misunderstood; people want to help but don’t comprehend what not having a house to call one’s own really means. Unfortunately, this past winter break, I spent my first winter in a car.

We lost our house just after July ended. Wintertime, which I used to see as just snowball fights and hot chocolate, is now something I see differently after I spent each night huddled inside my blankets in the backseat of my car.

While my parents took the passenger and driver seats, equally as huddled with blankets and pillows. The leather seats froze every night at about eleven o’clock and the creaks in our bodies from sleeping in our cramped positions didn’t smoothed out until about five o’clock in the afternoon when all our work shifts ended.

Typically working hand-in-hand with homelessness, the struggles continue in the form of hunger, making being without secure housing that much more difficult.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) found that in terms of the latest National, State, and Local Index of Food Hardship, that Greensboro/ High Point “have a food hardship rate of 27.9 percent with one in five households do not have enough money to buy food and 15% or more households struggle to buy even the basic necessities.”

With this included issue, the original problem of simply not having a home expands into losing each basic need for survival; especially in these upcoming months where the cold digs into everything, the inclusion of a lack of food proceeds to make life seem futile for some people just trying to get by.

My family is just one of many more across the country, and we are lucky to have had at least a vehicle to huddle in on the colder nights. While these situations cannot always be avoided, there are plenty of food suppliers that are gathering with the homeless in mind.

Food pantries, including the Spartan Open Pantry (SOP) here in Greensboro, have been recruiting volunteers and collecting as many supplies as possible in preparation for the harsher months to come. Making note to obtain as much supplies such as food and small toiletries, the SOP also utilizes its partnerships with other homeless options like Partners Ending Homelessness to try to get as many people who are homeless as accommodated as possible in time for the harsher weather.

While the trifles of losing a home are tough, the outside sources are great in number. Their influences on the homeless community are immense, even if they cannot fix every issue present. The volunteers for these places take the time to get to know those that they assist and the more volunteers that these places have. The better chances that those who are without can get through winter’s toughest assaults.

Homelessness may be a huge issue, but if enough people come together, the impact that the elements have can weaken over time.

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