The middle of January is often viewed as that time of year for winter activities like skiing and skating; children build snowmen and forts. Each time a new layer of snow has fallen from the sky, the night seems peaceful as the beautiful snow shines in the streetlights through the evening.

While the average person loves the beauty and fun of winter, we often forget that homeless people see winter far differently. The homeless population faces anxiety, uncertainty, and fear during this season. The small amount of comfort they used to have with better weather is gone. Now, they scramble to stay warm and dry outside. They also hope that the winter wind gusts go away because it feels like frozen bee stings on the skin. Children will huddle up, and basic hygiene needs are too often overlooked because shivering teeth don’t care if they’re brushed that night. Dirty hands are numb, so if it isn’t hot water, there’s no urgency to wash.

Meanwhile, other people sleep nicely in a warm and cozy home. We throw off the blanket in the middle of the night because the warm air inside is making us sweat. A cold drink of water on the nightstand is refreshing, and we head back to our slumber.

As our Clean Kids Backpack Program also delivers tents and sleeping bags to students living in the forests, my prayers are for their safety and hopeful move to long term housing one day. I feel a moment of ease, knowing we’ve distributed a decent amount of rinseless shampoo, so the kids won’t be walking around the next morning with wet heads leading to a cold or worse. A quick twist of deodorant and off to school again, the homeless student just wants to blend into the crowd, not wishing to draw attention to the fact that they are homeless.

If we can continue to remember the needy in our prayers, perhaps we can be moved to an easy and small contribution of any hygiene product we find online and send a gift of cleanliness or protection from the weather that will just plain ole’ help a student in need.

Today is a great day to lessen the severity of winter in the life of a homeless student.


Rev. Mark J. Niznik