How Does a Homeless Person Stay Warm in the Winter?

  1. Clothing and insulation

    • One of the biggest problems associated with homelessness is the challenge of staying warm. Clothing is one way that the homeless stay warm in the winter. By wearing layers of clothing such as two pair of socks instead of one, they can help trap heated air between their body and their clothing. An example of an outfit that would help keep the homeless warm would be (from bottom to top) two pair of socks, shoes, underwear, shorts covered with a pair of pants, a T-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater and a coat covering it all, with a scarf draped around the neck, ears, and mouth. Although this is optimal attire, it is often hard for homeless persons to find all of these materials, leaving them vulnerable to the elements. Newspaper and cardboard can also be shredded, balled up and stuffed into clothing to help insulate during the winter.

    Hygiene and exertion

    • Homeless people stay warm in the winter by avoiding too much physical activity. You lose vital heat through sweating and after you sweat, the moisture has a counterproductive effect on staying warm. Sometimes homeless people will also avoid showers and hygiene that wets the skin until the weather gets warmer. Staying dry is essential to staying warm, so homeless people often build makeshift shelters or move into abandoned properties to keep the rain out. Although this contributes to the defacement of property in some instances, it is a key survival behavior during the winter season. Public transportation and soup kitchens can also provide a temporary shelter to get warm.

    Extreme cases of cold during the winter

    • When the winter elements become unbearable, homeless people use fires to keep themselves warm or go to homeless shelters if possible. Younger children are often too vulnerable to the elements and must go to shelters. Through finding materials to burn such as trash, newspaper, wood and other items, some of the homeless population is able to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Mainstays such as hot coffee are often apart of the diet during winter in order to stay warm. Diet also attributes to a person's ability to keep warm and slow-metabolizing foods such as oats, wheat and starches are needed to stay warm but are not easily accessible by the homeless, who are often malnourished.

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  • Photo Credit Image by exael.

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