“If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” –Lucy Larcom
After Day Light Savings it feels as though the weather is just teetering between mild and cold. The mornings are chilly, with a crispness that is refreshing and awakes sleepy commuters bustling to and from work. Afternoons are pleasant enough, though you can’t get away without bundling yourself up.
Nights are different, as the concrete and darkness lend themselves to chilliness. Around this time of year the OIM office finds itself passing out more and more winter grade sleeping bags. As I type this our Office Manager is preparing to give out another one, a grey nylon bag she is marking with our acronym: OIM. Someone else is calling out, asking where the mittens are, and putting together a packet to hand-out.
One street-friend, when commenting on the cooling weather, explained he had a system to fight off the chill.
“I have layers. See, I have on three sweaters (hoodies) right now. But this will definitely help,” he said, holding up a new winter sleeping bag.
Winter is a hard time of year for our friends, even for those who may have a place to stay at night, as panhandling on the streets during the day can be frigid. It is interesting to hear street-friends share the ways that they keep warm, from using emergency blankets (the reflective aluminium ones), to layering socks on top of gloves, to the places they find to stay cozy. It is obvious to any listener that these men and women are survivors, and they appreciate help when it is given.
Last year our Street Outreach Teams gave out over 300 pairs of winter socks each month during the cold season, as well as 236 pairs of gloves/mitts (with the potential to give away over 300). As a whole, last year we gave out 110 sleeping bags to street-friends in need.
Keeping warm is a major concern for those sleeping outdoors and there is a high demand for coats, winter boots, hats and gloves. Items such as sleeping bags are essential to our ministry and are very valuable to our street friends. (It is not unusual for us to hear about a sleeping bag getting stolen.) Recently we received a donation of winter jackets, and it is exciting for OIM staff to be able to provide these much needed items.
This year OIM is Warming the Streets with Winter Survival Kits. Friends, families, churches and youth groups are putting together backpacks filled with much needed items for street-friends. These backpacks are filled with everything from hats to toiletries to socks and more! For more information about how to can help our street-friends keep warm this winter visit our Winter Survival Kit page.