• Erica Smith

How you can help in brutal weather (and every day of the year)

The generosity of people in Springfield never ceases to amaze us at Helping Hands –every day of the year. When the weather gets dangerously cold, however, people are especially interested in helping. Thank you for caring as much as you do. It means a lot to us, and it is noticed and appreciated by the people who are struggling with homelessness.

These items are used in

our Emergency Shelter, and we also distribute them to our Representative Payee and Permanent Supported Housing clients as needed.

1. Money

When the weather gets dangerously cold, the first thing Helping Hands does is extend our hours of operation. Our shelter is open 365-days a year, but our lobby usually is open only from Monday – Friday from 8:30 to noon and 1 – 4:30. In bad weather we fling our doors open 24-hours a day and welcome in many more people than we usually see.

That requires us to spend more on staffing and on facility costs. While we do somewhat rely on volunteers, we also know that our clients have needs that occasionally extend beyond what a volunteer can meet. A staff member is always on-site, and if we have a large group of people (more than 50), we have two staff here.

The cost of operating our lobby, per hour, is roughly $50. So, if you want to help, sponsor the lobby for an hour and know that the people who use it will be safe, warm, and have access to coffee, meals, and bathrooms.

2. Items and food

When we stay open extra we make sure everyone who is in our building gets enough to eat, and we believe that the food should be nutritious. We’re going to be open on the weekends through the end of March. Call Helping Hands at 217-522-0048 and ask to speak to Tom Girard, our shelter manager, if you’re a cook who can help us out. We would all be grateful!

We also need stuff – the same sort of stuff your household needs in the wintertime. You can bring them to our facility at 1023 E. Washington, Springfield. Our wish list is on our website www.helpinghandsofspringfield.org, and we created an Amazon wish list too: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2TL0YRC71NHVJ?ref_=wl_share

3. Keep talking about homelessness

It’s time Springfield gets serious about real solutions to the issue of homelessness. When it’s -3 degrees, our job is to keep people alive. When the weather breaks, it’s our job to implement smart, compassionate resources that prevent and resolve homelessness.

Advocate for access to mental health services for everyone. Learn about how Permanent Supported Housing works, and support organizations that are trauma-informed and housing-first. Educate others about homelessness and speak out in support of strategic community approaches.

Homelessness is a 365-day a year issue. Thank you for all you do when it’s cold, and every day.

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