Hey GMH family,
As the weather begins to change and gets colder, we can all be looking out for our vulnerable neighbors this winter. Every year, dozens of people die of hypothermia, exposure, or other weather-related causes while experiencing homelessness in the winter, and we as a community can help prevent this from happening. Here's how:
Save the Shelter Hotline into your phone. The number is 202-399-7093 or 311.
If you see a person sleeping outside during extreme weather or if someone asks you for help finding shelter, call the hotline. This is the best thing you can do to help your neighbors. And possibly save a life. The dispatcher will ask you where the person is, what they are wearing, and any other physical descriptors to help locate the individual. The dispatcher will then send a trained outreach worker to engage the person and invite them to warm shelter. They will also provide blankets and water if needed, and they will be prepared to assess whether other steps need to be taken. If you engage the person and they are non-responsive, if they are not properly dressed for the weather (ex: wearing a t-shirt despite freezing temps), or if there is any other concern about their physical health and safety, CALL 911.
A few things to remember:
1. If you don't feel comfortable engaging the person, that's okay. You can still call on their behalf from a distance.
2. The most efficient move is to call the hotline. Even if you know of a nearby shelter, it's better to call the hotline for help because that nearby shelter may be full. The hotline has this info.
3. Don't be discouraged if someone refuses help. They might change their mind after a few hours. You can ask again.
I also encourage you to sign up for AlertDC so you can get a text message when there is a Hypothermia Alert or Cold Weather Emergency. This will help remind you to be on the look out for vulnerable neighbors in extreme weather.
The goal here is to get everyone experiencing homelessness to a safe, warm bed. You, the community, are the most important outreach to keep people safe. This is literally about saving lives, so please don't hesitate to make the call.
You can also visit dhs.dc.gov for more detail. If you have any questions about any of this, feel free to contact me.
Thank you, church, and I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!!
Vola Ranaivoson, Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator