To help ensure no one has to sleep outside during the winter months, a collaborative effort by the county, nonprofits and faith communities created the Hypothermia Prevention Program more than a decade ago. Last winter (December 2018 through March 2019), the program provided almost 1,200 people experiencing homelessness in our county with a warm, safe place to sleep and a healthy meal.
What is Hypothermia?
People can die from hypothermia, a condition brought on when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.
See Someone in Need?
If you see someone who is unsheltered and you think he or she could be at risk of hypothermia, call the county’s non-emergency (police) phone line at 703-691-2131, TTY 711. A police officer will go out and do a wellness check and offer transportation to a hypothermia shelter site. If you see someone who appears to be in distress, call 911.
Why We Need a Hypothermia Prevention Program?
The county’s life-saving Hypothermia Prevention Program is coordinated by the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, which contracts with four nonprofits to increase the number of available emergency shelter beds by hundreds each night throughout the winter, December to March. A primary goal of the hypothermia prevention program is to ensure that everyone in need of shelter during the coldest months has access and the option for shelter.
This winter, the nonprofits are working with 44 faith communities, more than 2,000 volunteers and 49 total shelter facilities to provide safe places to sleep indoors with sleeping bags or blankets and mats. Participating faith communities’ members also provide meals, transportation and often extras such as clothing donations. The county’s support services are also available at each site, including health and housing assistance.