(The Center Square) – With Chicago’s brutal winters rounding the bend, the city has made an urgent appeal for help in gathering coats for homeless migrants camping out in the elements.
This mission involves One Warm Coat, a nonprofit that has run 49,000 coat drives nationwide since its 1992 inception, but it also depends on the public and “ambassadors” willing to hold their own drives to further the cause.
In an interview with The Center Square, Beth Amodio, president and CEO of One Warm Coat, elaborated on the crisis and what’s being done.
“There are hundreds of families that are sleeping in makeshift shelters outside and including many children. Obviously, it’s starting to get cold,” she said.
The influx of migrants now numbers over 18,000, which has city shelters reaching capacity and leaves others to sleep at police stations, the airport or simply outdoors, she told The Center Square.
It doesn’t have to be freezing outdoors to pose a critical health risk, according to Amodio.
“Prolonged exposure even at 50 degrees can bring on hypothermia,” she said, with senior citizens and children in particular danger.
There are several ways to get involved, from cleaning out a closet and donating your own gently used coats to signing on to become a coat drive ambassador.
“Anyone who goes to our website and registers to hold a coat drive becomes one of our ambassadors,” she said.
Already, Chicago has over 30 ambassadors, and Amodio is hoping that others, including outerwear manufacturers, will join the coat drive effort. The goal is to meet thet need over the next few weeks.
Nationwide, the demand for coats is soaring, she said.
“We have seen an absolutely astronomic increase in requests this year. Last year we collected 550,000 coats and that still was not enough to meet the needs of 85% of the agencies we serve,” Amodio said.
To get involved, go to the nonprofit’s website at OneWarmCoat.org and learn how to become a coat drive ambassador or otherwise lend a hand.