The weather the last few weeks has been dangerously cold. In fact, Meteorologist Doug Heady reported that the temperature the night of Monday, Feb. 15 were the coldest we have seen in a decade, with Pittsburg reported to be at -11 degrees Fahrenheit.
Between the many layers of ice, the below zero temperatures and even lower windchills, and the snow we have received, it has been dangerous for people and animals to be outside for an extended time period. Facebook has been full of posts concerned about animals being left outside in the winter storm that has come through the Midwest.
Yes, animals absolutely should not be left chained up outside in the middle of a winter storm, when temperatures are below zero degrees. While some people justify it by putting straw in their kennels, which tends to work typically in cold weather, these temperatures are past that. To protect pets and keep them safe in this cold weather, the optimal solution is to take them inside.
Though, with that conversation happening all over social media, one can’t help but think about the homeless population. If animals are freezing to death left outside in this weather how are human beings holding up? With this weather people are in danger of frostbite and hypothermia over extended periods of time outside, especially without proper attire to stay warm.
The Progressive Lateral Aid Network (PLAN) here in Pittsburg has set up a temporary warming shelter at Lincoln Center. PLAN members have volunteered to help make this 24-hour emergency shelter possible and are asking for donations such as hygiene products, non-perishable food items, and warmth/sleeping items. This has been an important step for Pittsburg in helping the homeless community. Nobody should be left to suffer in the cold at night.
There is a stigma surrounding the homeless population and they are frequently perceived in a very negative way. The homeless population is judged constantly and even struggle getting money for food from those who are better off due to this stigma. However, a stigma should not prevent someone from not freezing to death. Warmth should be a basic right, not a privilege, the same as a home. Restaurants are capable of providing distanced, warm, outdoor eating bubbles but cities spend money to prevent the homeless population from sleeping in their normal places, instead of helping them.
Something needs to be done to help these people, who deserve to have basic necessities for living that we take for granted. PLAN has created a plan to aide in the best way they can, in a very short time span. Imagine if the city worked as hard with their money to help the homeless population stay warm during the winter. With more snow on the way and frigid temperatures continuing we need to do something to help others. Empathy towards humans and animals in the winter with the drive to invoke change could be life changing for the homeless population, as well as for the animals left out in the cold.