What Happens to Those Facing Homelessness in the Cold

The dangers of cold weather bring the thousands facing homelessness yet another sleepless night. Without access to properly heated space, the countless men, women, and children who call the streets their home are at high risk for cold-related illnesses every day.

Here are just a few of the threats those facing homelessness face when it’s cold out.


Hypothermia is the most dangerous cold-related condition for those facing homelessness.

When the body reaches an abnormally low temperature, hypothermia begins to set in. This extremely dangerous condition causes serious health problems, and if left untreated, could even result in death.

Being able to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia could help you save the life of someone facing homelessness. If you see someone with any of these symptoms, help them seek shelter or call for help immediately:

  • Shivering
  • Drops in motor coordination (stumbling, mumbling, etc.)
  • Shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Unconsciousness


Exposure to severe cold can cause frostbite, a condition that can result in blood clots and tissue damage. If frostbite is not properly treated, amputation, unfortunately, becomes their only option.

Frostbite is painful and can be easily prevented. To help those facing homelessness prevent frostbite, you can donate items such as:

  • New socks
  • Gently used shoes
  • Old blankets
  • Mittens and hats
  • Jackets and coats

Trench Foot

One of the lesser-known cold-related conditions that those facing homelessness often get is trench foot. Even though it isn’t as severe as frostbite, trench foot can be extremely painful and have long-term consequences for being left untreated.

  • Permanently blanched or gray soles
  • Swollen feet
  • Long-term tissue damage
  • Chronic pain
  • Loss of sensation
  • Possibility of amputation

The winter is truly a scary time for our friends experiencing homelessness. No one, no matter their circumstances, deserves to be left in the cold. If you see someone in need this winter, give them a place to go by downloading our referral cards. You never know when you could find yourself in their position. Help us bring our neighbors in from the cold, and give them the hope that they deserve.

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