Winter: The Enemy of Homeless People Nationwide
By Jeremy Reynalds, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – January 7, 2017) — Winter is hard on those who do have a house and a nice, safe and warm place they can call home.
But how about for those who have nothing other than the streets? Can you imagine spending the nights outside, just clutching onto a pillow or blanket? I’d be miserable, terrified and a whole lot of other adjectives as well.
Some time ago I saw a compelling graphic which stated winter is the enemy of homeless people nationwide. And while writing this from the safety, warmth and comfort of my office here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I had to agree.
So, we asked some of our Joy Junction shelter guests what they thought.
Roseanna agreed, saying when she lived cold and hungry on the streets, she wanted to jump in front of a moving car. In addition, she wanted to experiment with new drugs, just so her body could be numb. Sometimes she felt as if her body was so cold she would die just where she lay.
“I prayed to God most of the nights just to take my life. I would cry and I felt my tears freeze. I was so lost and had nowhere to go, until (I was) guided to Joy Junction where I got warmth and found hope,” she said.
Another woman pointed out that life on the streets is very tough no matter what the season, but winter can be extremely cruel.
“Homeless people not only have to face the harsh elements, but still have to deal with their psychological and emotional issues.”
She stated that Christians can show the love of Christ by opening the church doors during the day and offer the homeless and hungry, something warm such as coffee or hot chocolate, while also feeding them spiritually.
This woman added, “They shall know we are Christians by our love. Would you give up all your comforts and take their place? Would you want a hand to reach out to you?”
Someone else said, “I know how it feels to be out there in the cold, especially around this time of the year. I would drink alcohol just to keep warm. I knew what to expect and how it is when you are alone out there in the streets. I felt so hopeless when I was out there. I wish we could help those who are out there now.”
Teresa said the winter is especially harmless to unsheltered or hungry homeless people.
“We can freeze to death or catch illnesses,” she said. “Not to mention fighting with each other and men stalking women. When I was homeless and hung out with homeless people I got beat up, and no one told me why. Being homeless with injures in the winter made my bones ache more, while the depression and feeling an aching heart made me feel no one cared.”
Victoria said cold winter conditions are especially hard for those homeless who are unprepared. She reminded us that no having warm clothing, no food and unsanitary conditions, may become especially dangerous.
“It calls for a new style of living and arranging one’s life and to learn what comes first in a sequence of events and climate … Learning when to trust and to paying more attention to where it is safe and when it is not. Sometime in the winter, people travel in groups for safety. Knowing how to make do with what you have until you can do better,” said Victoria.
She advised, “It’s most important to keep going to church, and do not allow anyone to break your spirit.”
Someone else further described the perils of the cold, saying that when they are outside in the frigid weather, they got sick.
However, area agencies helped, including us at our shelter here. “Through the grace of God, He gave me shelter here at Joy Junction just like He said He would,” that person told me. “I am blessed to have my savior staying beside me through all my tribulations. I am thankful for accepting Him into my life.”
Another individual recalled the terrors and perils of the cold nights, saying. “My family was walking late at night and it was dark and cold. Thanks to Joy Junction we were picked up … fed a hot meal, got a bed, warm blankets and new clothes. We are grateful for Joy Junction.”
It’s your prayers and financial support that have allowed this to happen since 1986, and continue to do so during this new year of 2018. Check out our website at www.joyjunction.org
Photo captions: 1) Graphic of winter being the enemy of the homeless. (www.motivational.com) 2) A homeless man. 3) This sign says it all. 4) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds.
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds, who was born in Bournemouth, UK, is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter,www.joyjunction.org. He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in La Mirada, California. One of his more recent books is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on the book are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. His latest book is “Two Hearts One Vision.” It is available at www.twoheartsonevisionthebook.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife, Elma. For more information, please contact him at email@example.com.
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