The long, cold winter nights are upon us.
And imagine you are spending the night sleeping outside, behind a store on Route 1, in the woods in Burke or in a car beside the parkway in Reston. For those experiencing homelessness in our county it is a frightening and potentially life-threatening reality.
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, the program provided more than 1,000 people experiencing homelessness in our county with a warm, safe place to sleep and a healthy meal.
If you see someone at night 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.
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.
Our 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.
This winter the nonprofits are working with 44 faith communities and coordinating 49 temporary shelter facilities to provide safe places to sleep indoors with sleeping bags or cots. 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.
During the freezing weather, the county also provides overnight shelter with a “no turn-away” policy at all of our emergency homeless shelters.
Contact our Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and we’ll provide you with information on where the need is greatest or the nonprofit partner that is closest to where you live or work. Call 703-324-9492, TTY 711, or send an email.
Watch our Jan. 5 discussion on county efforts to help our homeless community during the cold weather: