Here’s how you can help Atlanta’s homeless when it’s cold


Care packages

Head to your nearest discount store — the one where everything’s a dollar — and buy as many pairs of gloves and socks, hand warmers, hats and scarves, and as much lip balm, deodorant, hygiene products and snacks as you can afford.

If they sell plastic shoe boxes or other containers, grab some of those, too. If not, you can use small boxes you already have.

Pack each box with a variety of these items and keep them in your car to hand out as needed.

Blankets

Although any blanket is appreciated by someone who is cold, consider purchasing mylar blankets at a store or online.

These survival-type blankets are waterproof, rip resistant and retain heat better than those used on beds. Everlit’s survival blankets, for example, were designed by NASA and can be used as a rain poncho or light-duty tarp. You can buy a 12 pack on Amazon.com for $13.95. Each 52′’x 82′’ blanket is folded, wrapped and sealed in a bag the size of a credit card and weighs about 2 ounces. Keep a few in your purse or backpack to hand out on your way to work.

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Clothing

If you’ve made a resolution to clean out your closets, do it now. Coats, jackets, sweaters, sweatpants, shoes and other items in any size can be donated to an area shelter. You can also keep some in your car in case you come across someone who needs added protection from the weather.

Volunteer

More people seek refuge in a shelter when it’s very hot or very cold, and those shelters often need help servicing everyone.

Although most of metro Atlanta’s shelters are in the city, there are locations in Gwinnett, Forest Park and throughout the metro area who likely need volunteers to do laundry, clean up, stack shelves, etc.

It’s easy to find the nearest shelter to you. Go to www.hud.gov/findshelter and enter the city or county where you live.

Food

Many shelters have kitchens and pantries — either for making meals or to serve as a pantry for the hungry. The need can be greater in fall and winter.

“While every person is different, it is common for people to feel hungrier when it’s cold out,” Bri Bell, a registered dietitian based in Toronto, told Eating Well. “One of the simplest reasons is that your body needs to use more energy to keep itself warm in colder environments, especially if the cold causes you to shiver.”

Hot food is also better than cold sandwiches to warm a body, Bell added. “(T)hat will help keep your body temperature up and more satisfied.”

If you’re not much of a cook or lack the time to help in the kitchen, shelters will always be happy to receive monetary donations to help restock their shelves.

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