Central New York residents are used to temperatures consistently below freezing during winter months. But it might harder to get used to without proper shelter and resources. The homeless population faces unique dangers when temperatures drop.
“It’s not uncommon to see people get such bad frostbite, they loose toes and fingers,” said Tori Shires, Chief Operating Officer at the Rescue Mission.
The Rescue Mission is Onondaga County’s largest shelter. The shelter has 183 beds, with room for 195 for overflow.
“once the weather drops, the bed count and the number of folks we do have here does increase, particularly dramatically on the extra cold winter nights,” Shires said.
All 195 beds are often filled on the coldest nights of the winter. Still, some homeless can go unaccounted for. . A count conducted last year by the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Central New York found 12 homeless people living outside in temperatures well below freezing.
“There are several factors that come into play,” Shires said, “Some of that is mental illness. Some of that is distrust in government and agencies. So what we find is that we have a street outreach team that works 6 days a week, who goes out and works with folks experiencing homelessness outside.”
If you see someone in immediate need of medical attention, dial 9-1-1. If you’re concerned about the well-being of a homeless person, but there is no emergency, the number to dial is 2-1-1. Someone from the Rescue Mission or another local agency will respond to a 2-1-1 call by conducting a ‘welfare check.’
Shires recommends carrying extra socks, food and water to assist homeless people. Giving panhandlers money is not recommended. The Rescue Mission also takes formal donations year-round. In the winter, the need for socks and shoes are elevated.
Next week, Dunkin is partnering with the Mission for a hats and gloves drive. The campaign starts next Monday and continues through the week.