1. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  2. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  3. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  4. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  5. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  6. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  7. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  8. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  9. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  10. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  11. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  12. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  13. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  14. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  15. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  16. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  17. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  18. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  19. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  20. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  21. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  22. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  23. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  24. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  25. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  26. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  27. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  28. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  29. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  30. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  31. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  32. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  33. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  34. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  35. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  36. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  37. THE NATURE GAP
  38. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  39. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  40. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  41. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  42. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  43. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  44. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  45. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  46. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  47. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  48. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  49. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  50. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  51. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  52. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  53. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  54. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  55. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  56. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  57. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  58. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  59. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  60. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  61. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  62. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  63. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  64. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  65. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  66. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  67. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  68. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  69. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  70. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  71. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  72. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  73. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  74. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  75. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  76. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  77. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  78. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  79. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  80. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  81. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  82. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  83. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  84. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  85. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  86. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  87. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  88. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  89. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  90. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  91. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  92. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  93. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  94. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  95. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  96. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  97. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  98. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  99. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  100. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  101. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  102. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  103. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  104. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  105. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  106. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  107. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  108. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  109. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  110. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  111. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  112. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  113. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  114. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  115. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  116. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  117. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  118. Are You Going to Drink That?
  119. The Origins of ecoWURD
  120. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  121. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  122. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  123. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess
Friday, October 22, 2021
  1. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  2. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  3. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  4. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  5. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  6. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  7. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  8. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  9. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  10. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  11. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  12. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  13. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  14. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  15. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  16. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  17. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  18. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  19. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  20. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  21. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  22. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  23. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  24. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  25. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  26. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  27. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  28. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  29. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  30. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  31. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  32. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  33. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  34. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  35. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  36. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  37. THE NATURE GAP
  38. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  39. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  40. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  41. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  42. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  43. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  44. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  45. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  46. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  47. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  48. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  49. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  50. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  51. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  52. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  53. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  54. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  55. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  56. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  57. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  58. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  59. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  60. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  61. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  62. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  63. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  64. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  65. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  66. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  67. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  68. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  69. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  70. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  71. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  72. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  73. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  74. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  75. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  76. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  77. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  78. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  79. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  80. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  81. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  82. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  83. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  84. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  85. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  86. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  87. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  88. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  89. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  90. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  91. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  92. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  93. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  94. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  95. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  96. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  97. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  98. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  99. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  100. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  101. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  102. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  103. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  104. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  105. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  106. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  107. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  108. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  109. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  110. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  111. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  112. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  113. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  114. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  115. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  116. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  117. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  118. Are You Going to Drink That?
  119. The Origins of ecoWURD
  120. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  121. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  122. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  123. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess

The historic cold snap that brought Hoth-like conditions throughout vast swaths of the U.S. the other week was not the reason untold thousands of people couldn’t access adequate shelter and warmth necessary to survive sub-zero conditions. It simply highlighted the devastation caused when people can’t afford to stay warm.

Think about it: Most people in America don’t have to think about space very much.  They can pretty much go wherever they want without incident.

Tens of millions of Americans have property. Or they have well maintained and comfortable rentals. They can come and go as they please.  They can walk down the streets in relative safety, free from harassment. They can buy a coffee and hang out in Starbucks (well, they can if they aren’t Black).  But for the most part, they can pay four bucks for some bean water and use the free WiFi for however long they want to. No one questions why they are in the mall or at a restaurant or on a train.  They can pay the entrance fee to pretty much anywhere.

They look like they belong, so no one bothers them.  Scott and Becky are warm and relaxed and drinking lattes that cost too much. And they might be inconvenienced by a missed flight or have to take a day or two off when a polar vortex rolls through – but, they’ll be just fine.   

But what if you don’t have the funds for that overpriced cup of coffee? Or property? Or rent?  What happens to you when polar vortex winds rip through your city with negative 20 degree or less wind chills? Where do you go?

Outside of parks and libraries, there are very few places a person can exist legally without paying rent, a fine or a fee. Less than 36 percent of households in the US make the $42,400 a year ($21.21 an hour) necessary to rent a 2 bedroom apartment in the United States.  More than a quarter of American households fail to make the of $34,280 ($17.14 an hour) needed to rent a one bedroom. The federal minimum wage, at $7.25 an hour, produces an annual salary of $14,500 a year.   

A 2007 Berkeley research study found that at a rate of 1.3 percent of total annual deaths, cold weather is responsible for just about the same loss of life in the U.S. than homicide.  In fact, cold weather kills more than hot weather.  When temperatures become severe, the lack of access to shelter becomes a life and death issue for people in poverty.

Just recently, in Milwaukee, WI a 38 year-old woman was found frozen to death in an apartment with a broken thermostat. In Buffalo, NY a homeless man was found frozen to death in a bus shelter. And in Lorain, Ohio 60 year-old woman died of hypothermia while seeking shelter in an abandoned house.  In total, over 20 people were killed in the polar vortex that hit the Midwest and parts of the northeast this past week.  Many of them were homeless … and these are the ones that we know about.

In the United States, there is far more than enough shelter for every person.  The government alone holds 770,000 vacant buildings. According to the Federal Reserve, there are 17,231,000 vacant housing units in the US. Three out of four of these vacant units are investor properties and one in seven are bank owned. There are approximately 553,000 counted homeless people in the United States, 15% of whom are chronically homeless.  

Homelessness isn’t cause by a lack of housing, it’s caused by a denial of housing.

For those priced out of housing entirely, shelters are seen as the go-to option for people trying to survive the winter.  But shelters aren’t an option for the overwhelming majority of homeless individuals and families.

There are not enough shelter beds in any major city to meet the needs of every homeless adult and child residing there. Overcrowding is rampant and for those with social anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (from war or poverty), or a fear of crowds – the canned-sardine conditions of the shelter system can be too much to overcome.  Shelters are often also separated by gender – which can lead to the separation of families. Children are often not allowed in men’s shelters and teenage boys are often not allowed in women’s shelters. Parents are often forced to face separation from their children in exchange for shelter.

Pets – who can be as much of a close companion to poor people as they are to the middle-class pet owner – are generally not allowed in shelters, but there is often an abundance of bed bugs, lice, and roaches. Shelters often search and seize property and they tend to have lengthy and invasive intake processes. Sexual and physical assaults and theft are also common occurrences in shelters. If you drink or self medicate – like many sheltered Americans do – you can also be denied shelter and be left in the cold. And even if you can overcome all of these obstacles, shelters often keep strict hours that often conflict with the work schedules of lower-class laborers.  

There are very few layers of support separating a homeless person from a casket during the winter in general – let alone during an arctic freeze.  For those that can manage to find a rental, they aren’t guaranteed safety from the cold, either.

There are laws that require landlords to maintain a livable temperature in their rentals. As the Philadelphia-based Tenant Union Representative Network outlines, landlords must not only

“repair any material defects to a rental property which affect the health or safety of the occupants prior to renting and promptly during the lease” pursuant to the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code, but they “must provide access to necessary heat, water, gas and electric services at all times during a lease” according to the Utility Service Tenants Rights Act and Philadelphia Code 9-1600.  Yet, a lack of enforcement, the threat of retaliation from landlords (which happens even when tenants complain to agencies such as Licensing and Inspections) or lack of channels for reimbursement leaves tenants having to figure out how to heat their homes themselves.

Current policies, in even the most progressive of states, leave little recourse for tenants that are going without heat.  For example, many states have heat requirements (that are often well below temperatures that the Average citizen finds comfortable), but there is little one can do if a landlord violates them. There is even less protection for the tenant if a landlord retaliates against a tenant for filing a complaint.

Broken heating systems, lack of hot water, drafty doors and windows all contribute to increased electricity bills and risks taken to heat dwellings with space heaters, ovens, stovetops, and other unsafe alternatives.  

Space heaters are responsible for 43 percent of all home fires. In total, they cause 55,000 fires, 1,500 injuries and 450 deaths per year. In addition to burns and shocks, space heaters can cause power outages that can affect other tenants as well as complex-wide electricity grids.  Personal heaters can and do often lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. The use of ovens and stovetops for added heat also leads to increased risks of fire, fire related injuries, and fatally polluted air supplies.

Compensating for the failure of a landlord to provide heat also leads to increases in electricity bills that bleeds over into other items in the family budget.  

As reported by the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania, when landlords pass the cost of heating onto their low income tenants, they are forcing these individuals and families to choose whether they can “heat or eat.” They describe a situation where “[m]ost low-income families cut food and nutrition spending during the winter months in order to afford heating and energy costs. A 2015 study found that 25 million US households were skipping food and medicine needs in order to pay energy expenses. Parents will even go without a meal in order to ensure their children have enough to eat during these cold-weather budgetary shocks.”

As money is taken out of the budget for transportation and quality food, the ability to access nutritional meals also diminishes.  And while starvation is extremely rare in the United States, malnutrition from low vitamin, high sugar diets is increasingly common.  Anemia and similar nutritional deficiencies can also take a toll on work performance and energy levels.

In a bid to avoid costs, some families try to find creative, but often deadly alternatives.  For example, a family of nine in Wheeling, IL was taken to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning after using a charcoal grill to heat their home.  Others have turned to fires, electric blankets, and trying to stay warm by running their automobiles.  All of these are hazardous and potentially life-ending practices forced by people choosing between freezing to death and risking their lives just to stay warm.

As the atmosphere continues to destabilize, more severe weather patterns will increase.  Cold snaps like the one caused by the polar vortex this past week will become more frequent – as will the illness, injury, and death caused by inadequate shelter from the cold.  These deaths and injuries can be prevented by increasing the amount of low and no income shelter opportunities for homeless people and by passing and enforcing strict heating and hot water laws that favor renters instead of landlords.  The question is, can we mobilize to pass these policies before the next storm hits?