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Winter Hygiene Dangers for the Homeless

Most of us associate winter with holidays, family gatherings, and gift-giving. People experiencing homelessness, however, face a brutal winter. As a result of the cold weather, people who are experiencing homelessness are impacted more than most by seasonal changes. From rain disrupting sleeping spaces to holiday hours closing public spaces, it can be more difficult to find safe shelter during the cold seasons. The homeless population faces significant barriers to self-care and personal hygiene, including a lack of access to clean showers, laundry machines, and handwashing facilities. However, lack of hygiene is a big issue among people living in poverty and may increase the risk of infectious diseases.

Staying clean is part of a daily struggle for those who live on the streets and the winter makes it much more challenging. In addition to a lack of proper hygiene and crowded living conditions, people who experience homelessness are more likely to contract infectious diseases when living in shelters or encampments and communal environments with high concentrations of people. Additionally, life on the streets is even more dangerous than usual, and the holiday season’s focus on togetherness can lead to an even greater feeling of isolation leading to an increased risk of factors that can lead to reduced hygiene practices. This includes heavy drinking, drug use, and camping. 

Those experiencing homelessness must practice self-care behaviors and maintain proper hygiene in order to navigate the process successfully. Regular bathing, frequent hand washing, and laundering of clothing and articles are effective ways of preventing the spread of diseases. Studies have shown that people seeking healthcare services are more likely to utilize sanitation resources.

Lack of Supplies

Many of the supplies donated or available at service sites are used, expired, or not helpful for specific needs. In addition, a person may receive one small item but not enough for consistent use, which is essential to improved health. Receiving supplies alone is not sufficient to maintain healthy living. Proper hygiene is essential for our health and wellness.

Consequences of Improper Hygiene

Various diseases, many life-threatening, are associated with reduced hygiene access for those experiencing homelessness.

There is evidence that inadequate access to personal hygiene contributes to negative mental health outcomes. It has been shown that people with limited ability to maintain proper hygiene not only experience increased depression, but can also become addicted to drugs, be unable to function in their day-to-day lives or be less likely to find employment.

How To Help 

If you would like to help people experiencing homelessness and improve their health and well-being during these winter months, Hearts for the Homeless is requesting the following items be donated:

  • Deodorant sticks
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush.
  • Chapstick.
  • Soap and soap sacks.
  • Disposable razors.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hats and gloves

If you would rather make a donation directly to Hearts for the Homeless and our efforts to help those experiencing homelessness, please donate here