Taking Care of Our Vulnerable Homeless Community This Winter

Dinner being served at a hypothermia prevention program at St. Andrew's Church.

Updated Nov. 29, 2018

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 almost 1,100 people experiencing homelessness in our county with a warm, safe place to sleep and a healthy meal.

Infographic showing the number of nonprofits involved in hypothermia program and number of people served last winter.



Call If You See Someone in Need

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.


Why We Need a Hypothermia Prevention Program

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.

Sleeping area at the Hypothermia Prevention Program in 2016 at Burke United Methodist Church.

Sleeping area at the Hypothermia Prevention Program at Burke United Methodist Church.


Learn More about this Lifesaving Program

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, 2018 discussion on county efforts to help our homeless community during the cold weather:




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