A Not So Winter Wonderland: The Reality Behind the Cold

While many of us hope for a snow-filled winter holidays, complete with chestnuts roasting and endless cups of hot chocolate, the cold, winter months are a cause of stress for a large part of the population.

The wintry mix of snow, ice, wind and rain is especially brutal on those without roofs over their heads. In New York City, subway cars and transit hubs serve as havens from the brutal cold for the city’s homeless population. As temperatures plunged below freezing at the start of 2018, the struggle to keep warm and dry becomes significantly harder, making the homeless more vulnerable to the dangers of cold weather. On the weekend of January 4th, New York City’s Department of Homeless Services issued a “Code Blue,” which mandated all shelters to accept those without homes. New Yorkers were urged to call 311 if they spotted a homeless person on the street. Someone was then dispatched to bring the homeless person to the nearest shelter. (pix11.com)

The elderly, especially those who live alone, are among those who are susceptible to the dangers of cold weather.  As bodies age, the ability to control and regulate body temperature is greatly reduced, putting them at a greater risk for hypothermia. Hypothermia is a result of “a life-threatening drop in the body’s internal temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit” due to the “loss of body heat faster than it can be replaced” (nytimes.com). If an elderly person living alone were to fall, lying on the cold floor for a long period of time may cause hypothermia and could potentially result in death if not treated early. A person suffering with hypothermia requires immediate medical assistance and must immediately be stripped of cold, damp clothing and given warmer clothing.

Families and individuals from lower-income households also struggle to keep warm during the winter months because they do not have financial means to heat their homes. The high prices of gas, electricity and utilities-which totals up to hundreds, even thousands of dollars-has become a burden on low-income families, ultimately making heat a luxury, not a guarantee, for their homes.

The budget for heating and utilities is often not prioritized so that the money can be allocated for food, clothing, house and rental payments instead. Heating is not a guarantee in these households, making families, including children, more vulnerable to the dangers of cold weather. 

It is important that we keep in mind, as the winter progresses that we are incredible lucky to be warm for the winter. For those who are less privileged and unable to prepare for the brutal cold, the winter months may be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.