Just as a severe cold snap hit the Evanston area earlier this week, local nonprofit Connections for the Homeless ran out of coats and winter gear in its clothing closets at both Hilda’s Place and its headquarters at 2121 Dewey Ave.
The organization put out an urgent call on social media two days ago, asking for any and all donations of coats, boots, winter hats, gloves and other supplies necessary for survival in brutal temperatures.
Connections is also updating its website to allow donors to sign up for a time to drop off winter clothes outside of its traditional office hours, according to Chief Development Officer Nia Tavoularis.
“We get in-kind items in waves, and people think ‘Oh, I gave back in November. You’re good.’
“But it doesn’t work that way for people experiencing homelessness,” Tavoularis said. “Even if you do get good quality stuff that lasts, if you’re sleeping outside, it really gets put to the test. Stuff has to get replaced a lot, so we constantly have to be replenishing things.”
All of the local shelters operated by Connections are also currently full. But in the meantime, Interfaith Action of Evanston operates a hospitality center open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and it also runs an emergency overnight shelter with 25 beds.
Earlier this week, Interfaith Action partnered with Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson, who helped organize a room designated for unhoused folks at Robert Crown Community Center. People were also provided with dinner and transportation to the overnight shelter.
That opportunity will be available this Friday, as well, if the severe cold returns as expected, according to Interfaith Action Executive Director Susan Murphy Berube.
Beware of the lakefront
The Parks and Recreation Department also published an alert on Tuesday warning Evanston residents to stay away from shelf ice that collects along Lake Michigan during extreme cold.
As the ice forms around lakefront barriers, people and pets can lose track of where the land ends and the lake begins.
“Individuals walking onto shelf ice may think they’re on solid footing, but pockets can easily be hidden and covered in snow,” Recreation Manager Tim Carter said in the news release. “If a person falls through the ice into the water, it’s only a matter of minutes before they face life-threatening consequences.”
Seniors battle the cold
The cold temperatures and icy conditions can be challenging for seniors. The RoundTable spoke with a few members of the Foster Senior Club about how they handle it.
“The Golden Ladies, who are over 90, can’t make it to our in-person meetings,” said JoAnn Comer, a member of the club. “The weather has a big impact on us. We have to be very cautious because of the ice.”
Icy roads and sidewalks are a danger to everyone, especially the elderly. Seniors can easily break bones from falls. However, some other members of the Foster Senior Club were more positive about the cold weather. “The older I get, the more I can take the cold,” said Patricia Henry, who is turning 81 this year.
Snow removal and salting
The city’s Public Works Department is also staying on top of plowing and salting streets as well as pavements, taking it on as a 24-hour operation.
Evanston has gotten up to three inches of snow this week, city officials said.
“Our preparation is an ongoing effort. After any storm that we take on, we go back into making sure that we restock our salt, that we repair our trucks,“ said Noel Rodriguez, public services bureau chief.
He urged drivers to avoid parking in snow plow routes and advised those walking to be cautious of ice on sidewalks, which can be a hazard.
But Evanston is also warning residents that it is their job to keep the sidewalks in front of their homes clear of snow and ice to allow everyone, including seniors and those with disabilities, to travel safely, a city news release said. “Property owners and occupants are responsible for clearing sidewalks within 24 hours after any accumulation of snow or ice; paths must be at least 36 inches wide. This includes crosswalks and accessibility ramps.”