Helping the Homeless This Winter

Seasons are a given in Central Ohio. Some years, the seasons changing are mild and others, they smack us in the face. This year, less than a month in, winter is already hitting us hard. It’s no secret that winter, with it’s snow, ice and below freezing temps may be a nuisance for driving through rush hour traffic or make the neighborhood streets a challenge to navigate. But there is another side to this winter weather, a side that is often overlooked: Those experiencing homelessness have no warm place to run in to from the cold, and they do not have the basic necessities to keep them warm that most of us take for granted.


According to the National Coalition for the homeless, “Seven hundred people experiencing or at risk of homelessness are killed from hypothermia annually in the United States.” At the YMCA of Central Ohio, we take this staggering statistic very seriously and are on a mission to bring those who are experiencing homelessness in from the cold.


Our Van Buren Center offers year round shelter to those in housing crisis. Typically a shelter for women and families, in the winter Van Buren opens its doors to men as well and no one is turned away from the cold. Each night on average, 192 people find shelter here and the average age of those guests is 34 years old. In total, since its opening in 2014, the center has housed 4,752 guests, 232 being pregnant women and 1,962 are families that include 1,175 children.


Next time the temperatures are sub zero and you walk into your warm house from your warm car, we want you to remember those that may be outside during this weather and think to yourself, what can I do to help? How can I be a difference maker in someone else's life?


We have volunteer opportunities every day at the Van Buren Center, where you could serve a meal or read a bedtime story. If you’re unable to fit volunteering into your schedule, look inside of your closet and find any gently used coats, warm clothes, blankets or towels you may not use anymore and donate them to the shelter. Most times, it’s not big things, but the little things that make the greatest impact. Think of one small thing you can do this winter to make someone else's life a little better.


For more information about the Van Buren Center and how you can make a difference, please visit ymcacolumbus.org/vanburen.