This is NOT meant to shame you. You shouldn’t feel bad for having a warm place to be, with hot food & beverages, heat & blankets. Nor should you feel ashamed that snow is fun and you love playing in it. I don’t want you to feel bad – I desperately want you to want what you have for every person. I want you to keep in your mind and in your heart those for whom snow is deadly.
Our local response, once again, is entirely inadequate.
Earlier this week, before the first flakes fell, there was – once again – no response plan for a significant snow event. No warming center. No emergency shelter. No plan to check on camps to ensure they have food, water, and ways to stay warm—the basic necessities for life. Thanks to a few dedicated heroes in our community, a warming center was arranged, shelter beds created, donations wrangled by volunteers.
Yesterday, AFTER the snow had begun to pile up, a local hospital released a man who just had both legs amputated. They sent him to a shelter with only thin mats on the hard floor, where they make everyone leave at 4:30am. Thanks to dedicated members of the service community, he got a 24/7 bed (an actual bed) at a different shelter.
AFTER the snow began to fall, calls went out for donations. Organizers scrambled to purchase and deliver supplies before the storm worsened. This was done on the fly with little centralized coordination.
For at least a decade, people in the advocacy community have called for a community-wide emergency response plan for significant weather events or other natural disasters. Those calls have been ignored. Every other year or so, another big storm hits, people die, and just as the storm passes, so does our community’s concern.
I don’t want you to feel bad for loving the snow. I want you to feel ashamed that our community doesn’t have a strategic emergency response plan. I want you to feel furious that people die needlessly in every major storm that passes through. I want you to be enraged that the experts in our community trying to save lives are continually ignored.
Gandhi said, “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.”
How do we measure? Who are we, as a community, that we let people die in the cold when we could prevent it with the flick of a pen?
Once again, I ask our elected officials to correct our collective moral failure. Do this by forming a citizen advisory committee to craft a multi-jurisdictional emergency response plan that protects our unhoused neighbors, the elderly, and anyone who is adversely impacted by catastrophic events.
I hope this is the last year I have to write this.