The pandemic continues to challenge all of us, but the 5,700 people experiencing homelessness in Philly will be particularly vulnerable during the cold months ahead; other Philadelphians will struggle to keep their heat and electricity on, as they wrestle with the question of whether to use limited funds to cover the cost of food or other essential needs.
But you can help. Consider, for example, your power to start a coat, sock, or clothing drive among your networks: Reach out to the community organizations in your neighborhood—schools, recreation centers, elder facilities, houses of worship—to find out what their constituents most need. Then, rally your neighbors, your friends, your colleagues, or other groups to organize a drive; to minimize in-person contact during Covid-19, designate one person’s home a drop-off point, and another person to transport goods.
Take the drive city sanitation worker Terrill Haigler, aka Ya Fav Trashman, hosted in early February: In partnership with local organizations and businesses, he asked people to donate new and gently used coats and food to a drive held at 1555 N. 10th Street. People were invited to stop by with whatever they could spare (you can follow him here for additional events).
Or find inspiration in Project Warm and Cozy in nearby Slatington, PA: Lining a gate in a residential area, resident Denise Martinez has a selection of winter gear including scarves, gloves, and hats, for anyone to take, free of charge, and for anyone to donate, as well.
And throw your support behind the local orgs mentioned below, which are committed to keeping our fellow citizens warm:
Utilities Emergency Service Funds
Since 1983, UESF (Utilities Emergency Service Funds) has been providing utility assistance through its Utility Grant Program. UESF provides financial assistance to eligible low-income individuals and families in Philadelphia who are facing utility terminations or who have had their utilities shut off or are unable to afford the cost of oil to heat their homes. The utility grants help families bring their delinquent accounts (PECO/PGW) up to date, which in turn gives them continued access to a warm home.
UESF also provides direct oil assistance to low-income Philadelphia families who are unable to afford the cost of an oil delivery. Among those low-income families who heat their homes with oil, many are seniors and their families living in older homes with low energy efficiency.
When heating oil runs out, homes become very cold very quickly, resulting in the use of unsafe electric heaters and dangerous conditions of extreme cold. Households using unregulated delivered fuels, like oil and propane, are not protected by winter moratoriums that are in place for electric and gas customers to prevent a utility shut-off during the winter months.
Donate here to support their efforts.
Project HOME, the nonprofit dedicated to empowering families and individuals facing the cycle of poverty and homelessness—and administering the Covid-19 vaccine to them, as they’ve begun to do this week—is in need of donated men’s and women’s winter coats, men’s new or gently used shoes (sizes of 9-13), new socks and underwear, winter hats and gloves, scarves, and blankets. Contact 215-232-7272 or [email protected] to schedule your drop-off. You can also support their Amazon Wish List here.
Prevention Point Philadelphia is running a Winter Warmth campaign through March. Every donation helps them open their building for overnight warming centers during Code Blue, which is when temperatures drop to (or feel like) 20 degrees or less. In terms of in-kind donations, they’re in particular need of hand warmers (HotHands and similar brands); winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves (new or clean and in good condition); socks; and ground coffee and hot chocolate. Donate here.
Bethesda Project provides emergency shelter, permanent housing, and case management services to those experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia. Consider making a financial donation here, or donate high-need items such as homemade or take-out meals for their church shelter sites. They also welcome decorations and artwork to cheer up their spaces, and are looking for auction items for their largest fundraiser of the year on May 20, when they hope to raise $200,000.
Youth Service, Inc.
Youth Service, Inc., the non-profit organization that has provided shelter and support services to Philadelphia’s children, youth and families for over 67 years, offers unique programs and niche services throughout the city, including Philadelphia’s only Crisis Nursery program and the longest-standing shelter in the area for runaway and homeless teens. Through shelter, counseling, and in-home support services, YSI reaches more than 4,000 clients annually, the majority of whom live below the poverty level.
They welcome in-kind donations like new winter coats, new underwear (male and female, sizes 2T to 5T and teen), non-perishable food items, as well as financial donations, which can be made on their website here.
Wild Hand, the cozy Mt. Airy destination for fiber crafters—knitters, crocheters, and so on—of all abilities, recently worked with The Philadelphia Inquirer on an initiative to encourage citizens to make garments for organizations in need of items like scarves, hats, and gloves. You can use your own materials, or check out Wild Hand’s Little Free Library of yarn and donated supplies; plus, the shop is providing free patterns for simple scarves, as well as a list of organizations in need of these kinds of homemade knit goods. Learn more here.
South Philly Punks with Lunch
South Philly Punks with Lunch provides food, clothes, and life-sustaining supplies to those in need throughout the South Philadelphia area. During the winter months, they’ve set up stands around the neighborhood offering warm clothes and medicine, starting conversations, and swapping South Philly stories.
You can pledge money to support their work here, or donate warm clothes. DM them at @south.philly.punkswithlunch on Instagram for details.
Know of other organizations doing great work to keep Philadelphians warm? Tell us about them at [email protected].
The Citizen is one of 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow the project on Twitter @BrokeInPhilly.
Additional reporting by Jessica Blatt Press