Homeless population preps for cold weather

A homeless man sits covered in snow early on March 25, 2013 in Washington, DC. A messy Monday is in store for millions along the East Coast, with winter weather advisories warning of a mixture of snow and rain for Washington, DC, Philadelphia, metropolitan New York and parts of northeast New Jersey. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER        (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

A homeless man sits covered in snow early on March 25, 2013 in Washington, DC. A messy Monday is in store for millions along the East Coast, with winter weather advisories warning of a mixture of snow and rain for Washington, DC, Philadelphia, metropolitan New York and parts of northeast New Jersey. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Leondra Head | Staff Writer

With cold weather nearing, Hampton residents are gearing up for the soon to come winter season. Poverty conditions worsen locally and nationally along with cold weather.

The cold weather greatly affects homeless individuals and people living beneath the poverty line. Life for these individuals will continue to cause trouble and ultimately affect their health and survival skills. With 11 percent of citizens in Hampton living below poverty the poverty line, this group will have to find a way to keep warm during the cold, harsh winter.

In November 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau released that more than 16 percent of the population lived in poverty, which is approximately 44 million people. This data largely represents the adults living off an income of less than $12,000 a year and single mothers supporting a family with more than one minor.

Many living below poverty have perished simply because they had nowhere to take shelter when temperatures dropped. With extreme cold hitting the Northeast and Midwest this week and winter on its way toward the South, even more homeless people will be at risk. An estimated 2,000 homeless people died on the streets last year. There are currently 578,424 homeless people living in the United States, a third of whom have no shelter at all. As temperatures start to fall across the country, they are an extremely vulnerable population. Hypothermia is common when cold weather hits, as it sets in when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Many cities declare a hypothermia alert when weather becomes 40 degrees or lower. Cities have emergency procedures in place when temperatures drop in order to make more shelter available for people who are on the streets.

But those procedures are often too restrictive to prevent otherwise-preventable deaths. For example, even though hypothermia can set in when temperatures are as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, many cities don’t open the doors to their winter shelters until temperatures hit freezing or below.

The nation’s capital was not spared. Last year, two homeless people in Washington, D.C., which has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country, froze to death just miles from the White House. Shelters will fill up at a fast pace, with Washington, D.C., Chicago and Atlanta being among the highest poverty rates. These three cities have shelters open to the public and will be open during the winter months.

Some cities around the U.S. open up emergency shelters to ensure that citizens living below poverty have a place to rest their heads at night. Shelters and homeless services were hit hard during last year’s winter months by automatic budget cuts in 2014, and the pain was not entirely alleviated last year.

Recent budget cuts have significantly had an effect on the amount of homeless people shelters can take in, but hopefully government officials do their part to potentially counter this issue.

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