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Hypothermia Season Hits the District

Each year, the advent of the winter season brings with it its own set of challenges for the homeless population in the DC area. Colder temperatures increases the risk of hypothermia, especially for those without adequate shelter. This makes offering assistance to our homeless neighbors all the more critical.

For planning purposes, this year’s hypothermia season lasts from November 1, 2013 until March 31, 2014. Of course,  the actual dates services are required to be provided are contingent on weather conditions.

DC is legally mandated to provide shelter on hypothermia alert nights to all homeless individuals, despite the city’s often strained homeless resources. This gives many families and individuals the rare opportunity to take advantage of the city’s emergency shelter system. However, some shelter resistance individuals may choose not to stay in overcrowded emergency shelters, meaning they will brave a full five months in the bitter DC cold.

In compliance with a mandated District law, the District of Columbia’s Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) creates an annual Winter Plan which describes how District government agencies and providers within the Continuum of Care will coordinate to provide hypothermia shelter and other services to homeless individuals and families.

While many additional services remain available to residents throughout the duration of the season, some services, such as emergency overflow shelter beds, are only accessible on nights when the actual or forecasted temperature, including the wind chill factor, is 32 degrees Fahrenheit (F.) or below.

Additionally, individual district departments are funded on an annual basis, meaning that an uncharacteristically harsh winter or miscalculations made during the formation of the Winter Plan have the potential to decrease the number of available services offered to the homeless in the non-hypothermia months.

CHGM’s Street Outreach program and the Shirley’s Place Day Center are proud to play a key role in safety of our most vulnerable neighbors. Providing a warm daytime shelter, hot cups of noodles, access to cold weather clothing, and trained staff looking for the early warning signs of hypothermia help keep our neighbors safe during the difficult season.

If you would like to join CHGM’s hypothermia efforts, please take a look at the seasonal wishlist below or consider joining our staff through one of our many available volunteer opportunities. If you see anyone in need of shelter or assistance don’t hesitate to contact the DC Shelter Hotline at 1 (800) 535-7252.


CHGM Hypothermia Wish List:

Long johns
Hot Chocolate

All donations and drop-offs are graciously accepted at our “Shirley’s Place” Day Center:

1338 G Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Office: 202-544-3150
Office hours are 8-6 Monday-Friday, and 9-1 Saturday.