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Mayor Gray encourages District residents to look out for the homeless

A homeless man in D.C. tries to stay warm near the White House
A homeless man in D.C. tries to stay warm near the White House
Photo by Professor Metze

As temperatures in the District are forecast to drop to levels not seen in this region in years over the next 24-48 hours, Mayor Vincent Gray encouraged District residents to look out for those who are vulnerable during extreme weather – including the homeless and elderly family members, friends and neighbors. Remember the first African American legislator in South Carolina froze to death after the power company cut off her power.

“The District will see temperatures tonight and tomorrow that we haven’t seen in years – and such extreme cold can have deadly consequences for those who are exposed to it even for a short period of time. Please be on the lookout for those who might be vulnerable, and take advantage of the many resources the District offers to keep people safe and warm,” Gray said.

The District government, through the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), declares a hypothermia alert when the temperature reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, including the wind chill. Extreme cold can cause significant impacts to individuals residing in facilities without adequate heat and for those living on the streets.

Gray said District residents who see or know an individual or family who is homeless can call the District’s hypothermia helpline at 1-800-535-7252. Residents can also call 311 to be connected to the proper services for people who are homeless in extreme cold. If residents see a body on the ground do not assume the person is drunk or sleeping. The person may be dead. Call 311.

District agencies will activate their internal plans to ensure their residents, employees, and the public are protected against extreme cold. Residents and visitors are encouraged to stay indoors or find a public facility available for warming. D.C. Public Library (DCPL) branches, some Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) facilities, and the Office on Aging’s (DCOA) Senior Wellness Centers are all places where the District government encourages residents in need to stay warm; they are open to the public during normal business hours.

If major power outages occur throughout the city, HSEMA may activate a DPR site as an emergency warming shelter for that neighborhood or area. Emergency warming shelters are overnight shelters open for the number of people affected by the cold emergency with sleeping cots, food, snacks and additional assistance provided as needed.