November is upon us, and while for many of the students of USC this is a time of brisk fall air, pumpkin spice lattes and Thanksgiving break, many people around our community are suffering because of lack of shelter from the increasingly cold weather.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypothermia, a condition resulting from a low internal body temperature, can occur “even at cool temperatures (above 40°F).” Over an extended period of time in the cold, the homeless can use up their bodies' reserve of energy and their body temperature can drop to dangerous levels.
In the U.S. between 1979 and 2002, an average of 689 people per year died due to hypothermia. The CDC also states that the homeless and malnourished are at an especially high risk of developing this condition. Because of this and other threats, living on the streets is not only dangerous, but can also be fatal.
Though it is a widely held belief that it is important to help homeless people, some students tend to ignore the homeless problem because it doesn’t affect them. In reality though, about 7.8 percent of our school’s students came from families in the bottom 20 percent of household income, according to a profile by the New York Times.
While not all of those students suffered homelessness, financial struggles are not as removed from the students of USC as one might think. This is the background from which a number of our fellow Carolinians came, and therefore it should be an important issue in our Carolinian Community.
According to a report done by South Carolina Interagency Council on Homelessness in 2017, on any given January night in Richland County 189 people were unsheltered, out in the cold. What better way is there for college students preparing to go out into the world and make a mark, than by providing for those in need in our community?
Many students don’t go looking for opportunities to serve their community because they feel they don’t have the time to spend on it. While that might be a reality for some with heavy course loads, there are still ways one can help. There are organizations that collect gently used clothes that homeless people can receive for free or at a reduced price, such as My Neighbor’s Closet, a service of the Sisters Encouraging Sisters organization, which helps people in need acquire clothes for free.
A way to help is to use a fraction of Thanksgiving break cleaning out one’s closet for donatable clothes. Many of these organizations also ask for monetary donations to provide better services to those that need them. Through monetary donations, organizations can provide new undergarments and personal hygiene products to those who come to get clothes, allowing them to more dignity and hope along with satisfying their needs.
For those that have a lack of funds or resources to donate, there are a plethora of organizations in Columbia that depend on volunteers, many of which can be found and contacted online or by phone. Volunteers are required to help with a range of services that these organizations provide, such as with the Salvation Army, where volunteers can help with sorting donations, food preparation and seasonal events through the year.
Many of these organizations are aggregated on websites like Suntopia.org and the SCIWAY website, so that they are more accessible to people who need them and volunteers that want to help. There are also USC Service Saturdays once a month that help USC students get involved in service, and the program provides transportation and pizza to volunteers.
As a Carolinian community, we have a responsibility to gather our resources and provide for those in need in our community.