Holidays for the Homeless


Riley Ehrenberg

For many, the holidays aren’t a festive time. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were an estimated 380,466 people in the U.S. experiencing homelessness in January 2020. For them, the holiday season can be a dangerous and depressing time.

The winter season is the toughest time of the year for the homeless. Many shelters remain closed until temperatures reach dangerous levels, forcing them to stay outside in the frigid weather. Exposure to the cold without adequate protection can cause life-threatening diseases, such as frostbite and hypothermia. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, these afflictions kill 700 homeless people annually. Shelters fill up quickly this time of year, and many run out of resources such as food and warm clothing early into the winter season. Additionally, Covid-19 has created a shortage of volunteers and sanitation equipment, leaving many shelters underprepared.

The holiday season contributes greatly to a growing mental health crisis among the homeless. Many of them don’t have families to celebrate with or homes to go back to. This, combined with the isolation from the rest of society can intensify feelings of depression and loneliness. Homeless people often find themselves out of work this time of year, as many jobs close down for the holidays. Kabrien Johnson told Breaktime, “I can’t wait for Christmas to be over.” Johnson had been homeless for 2 years at the time and expressed her dislike for the holidays. She describes feeling “desperation” while trying to get by during winter, and remarked how difficult it is for her to watch people enjoy luxuries unavailable to her.

It is always important to support the less fortunate, but it is especially important during the holidays. Food, warm clothes, and water can be donated to local homeless shelters, and many depend on volunteers to keep things running year-round. Additionally, there are charities such as The National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Homelessness Law Centre, and the Coalition for the Homeless which would benefit greatly from a donation.