With the cold weather setting into northern Illinois, residents without consistent access to heat or proper clothing can be at risk for major issues such as hypothermia. However, there are resources across the Chicago area to assist those in distress.
Don’t be fooled by the milder December. Although the 2023-24 Chicago winter is predicted to be on the milder side due to El Niño —a natural phenomenon where sea temperatures on the Pacific surface are warmer than normal— it won’t necessarily mean temperatures are above freezing through the winter.
For residents looking for information on how to stay safe during the winter months, here are some resources available in the Chicago area.
The city of Chicago reports six warming centers through its Family and Support Services, which are open 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday when temperatures drop below 32°F. Two are located on the city’s west side and can be found at the following locations.
- Garfield Community Service Center, 10 S. Kedzie Ave.
- Trina Davila Community Service Center, 4312 W. North Ave.
The city of Chicago lists the Garfield Community Service Center as available 24/7 to connect people with emergency shelters. Residents can also access public libraries and certain Park District buildings during business hours.
If a landlord is not providing adequate heating during winter months, residents are urged to call 311 to access Chicago’s non-emergency services. Eleventh ward alderman Nicole Lee said she recommends the 311 line regardless of language, as there are resources available regardless of English ability. The 311 line also offers help for those who are houseless or in danger of becoming houseless.
“There are resources through the Chicago Department of Housing, where they can advise folks as to next steps on how to ameliorate that situation,” Alderman Lee said. “Especially in the winter, if your landlord isn’t providing you heat, that is something that the city takes very seriously.”
When it comes to more permanent housing, organizations such as Inner Voice Chicago assist the houseless population through providing different types of transitional housing. Jackie Edens, Inner Voice of Chicago CEO, said they are prepared to handle rising issues due the cold thanks to the organization’s understanding of Chicago winters and their year-round care in the community.
“Our programs are year-round, our three transitional housing programs, they’re 24/7 365 [days a year],” Edens said. “So we are prepared for it.”
Although the organization may not always have the bandwidth to take in donations to its physical office, the website offers a link to food pantries available in the Chicago area for those who need food or would like to donate.
For those seeking access to winter clothes, Cradles to Crayons Chicago provides clothing and essentials to kids ages 0-12 and the organization’s website has a page to request services. Residents of all ages can also visit free stores sponsored by community members, such as the Casa Hernandez Free Store at 3519 North Ave., the Rogers Park Free Store at 6525 N. Clark St. or the 11th Ward Free Store at 249 S. Halsted St.
To get connected to resources in a particular location, 25th ward alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez said he recommends contacting the local alderman as a first step. He said the 25th ward’s office is fully bilingual to provide help to residents in both English and Spanish.
For those looking to provide donations of warm clothing, some organizations to consider include One Warm Coat, Cradles to Crayons, or donating coats to a participating Jewel Osco through the Chicago Bears Coat Drive. Monetary donations for winter clothes can be given to organizations such as Instituto del Progreso Latino or free stores requesting donations to purchase gear.
La Raza’s editorial coverage is possible in part thanks to a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.