Month: December 2020

What Happens When It Gets Cold?

Homelessness is happening year-round, but what happens when it gets cold outside?

The definition of cold to a homeless person is 50 degrees. At 50 degrees, hypothermia can start to set in, and the elements become harsher. Most states get below 50 degrees, even places like Los Angeles, putting their homeless population at risk.

In big cities like Chicago, the amount of homeless people is upwards of 80,000 people, too many for the beds available at homeless shelters. With no beds left for them, people have to turn to the streets during the cold winter months.

On the streets, most homeless people are just trying to find shelter from the elements. In some cities, tents are not allowed and taken from the person using them. Cities claim that the tents block pedestrian walkways or parks. In reality, tents are an easy way to help the homeless population stay warm in the winter and year-round in general, given them as much break from the elements as possible.

When the shelter is full and they can’t use a tent, the homeless population is left with the task to find warmth in other forms. Some people use blankets or coats, others have to use industrial trash bags. But unfortunately, even with all the possible options of warmth used, homeless people still face hypothermia and frostbite. If not treated immediately, loss of limbs and death can occur.

The effects of hypothermia can set in between 32-50 degrees. The body temperature starts to lower below 95 degrees and requires emergency attention. Without that emergency attention, the person can die.

While hypothermia leads to a lot of deaths, frostbite takes the limbs of many homeless people. Frostbite happens when the body becomes exposed to cold weather, and the tissue starts to die because of it. While in mild cases, the area has to be warmed up, in severe cases, the limb may have to be amputated because the tissue has died. It is unknown the number of limbs lost by homeless people, but it continues to affect them every year.

With about 700 people dying from the cold weather and hypothermia each year, cities need to expand the options for the homeless population. There should not be people dying from hypothermia or losing limbs to frostbite when it is preventable. The expansion of homeless shelters needs to happen. There should not be a ban on tents, which serve to protect the body from the elements.

The treatment of the homeless population needs improvement all around, but especially when it comes to the cold months. The easiest thing you can do this winter is consider donating supplies to your local homeless shelters.

AIDS: The Other Disease Hurting Black Americans

December is AIDS Awareness Month

The system of oppression put into place in the healthcare system has continued to fail people of color in all aspects of health, and the AIDS epidemic is no different. While the stereotype surrounding AIDS is that only gay or bisexual men live with the disease, that is not the case.

Black women account for the largest share of new HIV diagnoses. Black transgender women are more likely to have HIV than any other ethnicity or race of transgender women. Black Americans are more likely than any other group to die from HIV/AIDS.

Discrimination, stigmatization, poverty, limited access to healthcare, and the fear of the disease. All of these things contribute to Black Americans facing the brunt of the AIDS epidemic.

With less access to private health insurance and limited healthcare options, Black Americans are less likely to be on medication or virally suppressed. The prescriptions to help limit the symptoms of HIV/AIDS and increase the length of the person’s life are often expensive. If the person does not have insurance to cover it, out-of-pocket payments are costly. This leads to a higher risk of unknowingly transmitting HIV.

The stigmatization that surrounds HIV/AIDS leads to the labeling of those individuals as part of a group that is socially unacceptable. Because of this, the person with HIV/AIDS could be socially isolated, or individuals even refusing contact with the person. Black Americans are already discriminated against and adding on an HIV/AIDS diagnosis would only make it worse. While this might not be the case, the fear of this happening prevents people from getting tested.

If the person decides to get tested and does test positive, care is often not sought out because of the price of care. In both situations, it is a losing scenario in a person’s thought process leading to so many not even knowing they have the disease.

Talking about HIV/AIDs openly, especially the disproportionate effects on the Black community, are necessary to ending the stigmatization behind HIV/AIDS. The healthcare system needs to change how it handles HIV/AIDS and begin to treat it like the epidemic that it is. Neighborhood FORWARD stands with the Black community who have HIV/AIDS and with the Black community that has suffered from the effects of stigmatization.

Mind the Gap: Disparities in Public Transportation

Public transit is how many Americans rely on getting to work, going to the grocery store, or getting access to healthcare. The majority of Americans relying on public transit are communities of color, as they are six times more likely to not have access to a car.

So why are public transportation budgets beginning to be slashed?

Organizations and political groups have spent millions on campaigns and candidates to get them to support increasing highway spending and reducing public transportation spending statewide and federally. Their goal is to get more Americans into their car and spending money in their industry, instead of riding public transit.

These highways help mostly white wealthier communities, taking money away from public transit and effectively hurting poor, predominantly people of color communities.

The slashing of public transit is occurring in New York City as the M.T.A subway and bus services are facing cuts of 40%. Weekend services would be cut the most, 15-minute wait times between trains and some lines just cut out altogether.

With this cutting of lines and extended wait times, low-income and minority communities could have no way to get to work, limited options of accessing healthcare, and a hard time going outside of their communities. With no way to get to work, or not having a reliable way of getting to work, people could lose their jobs, having to apply for unemployment as they look for a job not requiring transit.

While both high-income and low-income workers use public transit, higher-paid workers are more likely to be able to work remotely. Low-income workers do not have that option as readily available. More low-income workers are deemed essential and working in the service industry, relying on public transit.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, low-income communities have already been hit the hardest, and limiting public transportation is hurting them even more.

The rhetoric about public transportation has made it out as a money pit, not showing the expansive value public transportation holds.

While limiting public transportation not only hurts the people traveling on public transit, it also could erase 450,000 jobs. These jobs rely on the people coming into the city, spending money, and using their services. With fewer people having the ability to enter the city, it effectively hurts their business. An increase in public transit funding would directly lead to more job growth than highway spending.

Limiting public transportation hurts low-income communities, hurts businesses that rely on the people brought in by public transit, and can negatively affect the New York economy as a whole.

Neighborhood FORWARD believes in the importance of public transportation. We believe that low-income communities deserve to have a way to get work, a way to access healthcare, and a way to go further than somewhere within walking distance.


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