WUSTL partners with St. Louis Winter Outreach

Volunteers help homeless when temperatures dip

When temperatures drop in St. Louis, many people simply turn up the thermostat, throw a log into the fireplace or pull an extra blanket on the bed. For those who are homeless, sleeping in the streets or in abandoned buildings, extreme temperatures can mean the difference between life and death.

This winter, the Community Service Office at Washington University in St. Louis is partnering with the St. Louis Winter Outreach team to help the homeless, and there are a number of ways WUSTL community members can get involved.

About seven years ago, St. Louis Winter Outreach (WO) was founded after an area homeless man died due to extreme cold. Now, on winter nights when the temperature is predicted to drop below 21 degrees, the volunteer teams meet, drive around the city looking for those at risk and offer blankets, coats – or transportation for those willing to go to a shelter.

This year, there are six emergency shelters in the downtown St. Louis area that will be active when temperatures dip below 21 degrees. Once at the shelter, people are given something warm to eat and drink and also dry outerwear if needed.

Based on last year’s need, the WO team estimates that it will need approximately 2,000 pair of socks, 2,000 blankets/sleeping bags, 300 hats and 400 gloves.

Ways to help:

  • Donate or help cook. The Campus Kitchen of WUSTL is preparing soups, stews and chili that will be prepared during regular bi-weekly cooking shifts and then frozen until needed at the shelters. To get involved with Campus Kitchen, visit campuskitchens.org/schools/wustl.
  • Winter wear drives. The Community Service Office encourages all students, faculty and staff to consider collecting heavy adult socks, gloves, hats and scarves for the WO team. Deliver the collections any time before Jan. 31 to the Community Service Office, Room 250 of the Danforth University Center.
  • Scavenge through closets. During winter break, go through closets and donate gently used blankets and sleeping bags to the WO team. These will help keep individuals warm – both those who wish to remain on the streets and those who come to the shelters. Deliver any time before Jan. 31 to the Community Service Office, Room 250 of Danforth University Center.
  • Volunteer at a shelter. Interested students, faculty and staff also are encouraged to volunteer at the AmeriCorps Emergency Shelter, 1315 Ann Ave. in Soulard (just south of Russell & 12th streets). When temperatures are below 21 degrees, the on-call volunteers are notified via text, email or phone to confirm that shelters will be open. Volunteers work 6:30-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and serve food and make the 30 homeless guests feel welcome. AmeriCorps will transport volunteers back and forth from the Danforth University Center.

For more information or to sign up, contact LuAnn Oros, community consultant for hunger and homelessness in the Community Service Office, at luann.oros@wustl.edu, or outreach volunteer Jean Allman, PhD, the J. H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities and chair of the Department of History in Arts & Sciences, at (314) 935-5446 or jallman@wustl.edu.

To learn more about the Winter Outreach team, visit facebook.com/#!/groups/171003069580/ (St. Louis Homeless Winter Outreach).