By Jim Greene

With extreme cold weather and wind chills in the single digits forecast through the end of week, it is more important than ever that everyone remains vigilant to help the vulnerable among us at this time. Hypothermia and frost-bite set in extremely quickly at sub-freezing temperatures, and homeless people are at greater risk than an average person with less complicated health needs.

BPHC’s Emergency Shelter Commission coordinates the efforts of a city-wide network of emergency shelters, outreach providers, city agencies and first responders to assist the homeless. The Commission also provides resources and a warm bed for Boston’s homeless all year round at the Long Island and Woods Mullen shelters, but the needs are even greater at this time of year.

Boston Emergency Medical Service, a division of BPHC, patrols for homeless at risk of hypothermia and often arranges transportation to shelters.

So what can YOU do to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of the homeless in our city?

1. If you see what you think may be a medical or safety emergency, please call 9-1-1 (from a landline) or 617-343-4911 (from a cell phone). Examples may include people who are not appropriately dressed for the cold; those having difficulty walking or speaking clearly; or persons in unsafe, unheated, or other precarious locations that should be checked on.

If it’s not an emergency, but you wish to make a location frequented by homeless person(s) known to the Emergency Shelter Commission, please call the Mayor’s 24 Hour Service Help Line at 617-635-4500. Please be as specific as you can about the address, location, and any persons in need. The Mayor’s Office will forward that information to the ESC.

2. To stay warm and safe, many homeless individuals rely on the generosity of the community to ensure critically-needed items are in supply throughout the year.

To help immediately by making a donation, please contact Amie Guerra at (617) 534-6108 or aguerra at bphc dot org for drop-off locations or more information. You can also start a donation drive in your workplace, apartment building, or other common area, which will spread awareness and allow more community members to become involved in our mission.

Donated items can be new or gently-used and must be in clean, usable condition.  We are especially in need of adult men’s and women’s:

Toiletries of any size
T-shirts, Socks, Underwear
Suits, Dress shirts,
Thermal Wear, Coats
Hats, Gloves, Scarves
Pants, Jeans
Sweatshirts, Sweaters
Sneakers, Dress shoes
Winter boots, Work Boots Duffle bags, Backpacks, Briefcases
Umbrellas, Raincoats

Jim is the director of BPHC’s Emergency Shelter Commission.