Homeless at highest risk from extreme weather

Magen David Adom staffers hand out warm sleeping bags, blankets, and hot meals to homeless people, as well as to elderly.

December 13, 2010 03:46
2 minute read.
Illustrative photo

homeless religious man 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The current wave of windy and cold weather, with thick dust in the Jerusalem region and southward and heavy rains in the North, has made things uncomfortable even for many people in their homes; it is unbearable for homeless and helpless people.

Aware of this, Magen David Adom staffers and volunteers have been handing out warm sleeping bags, blankets, hot water bottles and hot meals to homeless people, as well as to some elderly and sick people who can’t leave their homes. Off-duty ambulances will bring them around.

A special number – 1-700-500- 430 – has been set up to provide acute help for the needy to survive the cold spell. It started operating Sunday and will continue through 10 p.m. on Monday. Many of the homeless refuse to go to a shelter even during a storm.

Last year, according to MDA, 13 people froze to death; seven of these were homeless.

Noa Netzer, chief nurse of the Matav voluntary organization, with 40 branches around the country providing caregivers for the elderly and disabled, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the two groups at the highest risk for complications in extreme weather are babies and the elderly.

For both groups, windows and shutters should be closed to keep out dust and cold air, but if using heating systems that emit carbon monoxide by burning, ventilation is required.

Older people’s mattresses should be covered with fleece or wool blankets covered by sheets to keep them warm. Do not use an electric blanket, as the elderly are likely to forget to turn it off, and urine could cause shorts. Seniors should sleep while wearing warm socks and warm caps, and their clothing should be kept dry.

The elderly do not feel cold immediately, often until they suffer hypothermia, when it is too late. They should not sit too close to heaters, as they could suffer burns.

Eat warm things, including soup, and tea. Buy an emergency light in case power supplies fail and test it in advance. Get vaccinated against the flu, said Netzer, and use disposable tissues rather than a handkerchief. It’s best not to leave the house on a windy day so as not to fall.

Babies should wear caps and layers of light clothing so they will be warm and also be able to move their limbs. Do not overheat the room beyond 22º Celsius and ensure that they sleep on their backs and without tobacco smoke in the room.

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