Brothers & Sisters, Would You Spare a Coat This Cold Winter Day?

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Locals Chief (left) and Red bundled up in Travis Park on a cold afternoon in San Antonio. Red said he was lucky enough to find a solid winter coat, Chief's wind breaker leaves much to be desired when temperatures drop below 30 degrees at night. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Locals Chief (left) and Red bundled up in Travis Park on a cold afternoon in San Antonio. Red was lucky enough to find a solid winter coat, Chief's wind breaker leaves much to be desired when temperatures drop below 30 degrees at night. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Hoy para ti, mañana para mí.
Today for you, tomorrow for me.

cristinaflores

I was on my way to work last week. It was very cold, and I noticed a woman asking for money on the sidewalk. She was shivering, dressed in minimal clothing. I didn’t have any food or cash, so I was unable to give her anything. I just moved on. All day long I thought about that woman, suffering outdoors in the cold, trying to keep warm somewhere.

The homeless are most vulnerable when the weather turns wintry and shelter is scarce. That message comes through loud and clear in this video by San Antonio artist and videographer Seth Camm, who paints the homeless and turns anonymous and invisible people into the real living individuals they are, just like me.

The next day I left my home with an extra coat, hoping to encounter the same woman I walked away from the previous day. As I was driving up to the street signal, I see her. She had on gloves and a heavier jacket, and was still asking for money. I waved her down and handed her my extra coat.

“Here you go,” I told her. “You need this more than I do.”

The woman’s face lighted up with appreciation. Driving off, I watched her put on her new coat. The scene overwhelmed me. Sitting in my car alone I began to cry.

There are times when I am having a terrible day, and I think that everything bad is happening to me. Then I remind myself: My problems are miniscule compared to people who have real problems. That ‘s when the idea hit me. That’s when I began to plan the coat drive, Cristina’s First Annual Coat Driveaganza.

It’s been reported this week that a severe winter advisory is in effect for all of South Central Texas. It’s even snowing some places in the Hill Country. A “blue norther,” as such wind-blown fronts are commonly called in Corpus, can be deadly: Freezing cold fronts that can kill whatever is left outside without shelter or protection.

Locals Chief (left) and Red bundled up in Travis Park on a cold afternoon in San Antonio. Red said he was lucky enough to find a solid winter coat, Chief's wind breaker leaves much to be desired when temperatures drop below 30 degrees at night. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Locals Chief (left) and Red bundled up in Travis Park on a cold afternoon in San Antonio. Red was lucky enough to find a solid winter coat, Chief’s light wind breaker leaves much to be desired when temperatures drop below 30 degrees at night. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

According to the organization 100,000 Homes Campaign, a recent survey of 441 homeless showed that 40 percent of the homeless population is “medically vulnerable and at increased risk of death.” When our most vulnerable people are caught off guard in the cold, this significantly reduces their odds of survival.

This is my first time conceiving and taking responsibility for such an event. But, the words “first annual” in the event title indicate I am confident I can do this with the help of friends and family and that we will be back to do it again and again. Coat Driveaganza will only do so much to help the issue of homelessness, but small steps like this one add up. It’s our shared obligation to help our less fortunate fellow-man, to be more empathetic and selfless, to keep our big city still feeling like a small town where everyone takes care of everyone else.

Many will benefit from warmer clothing. This weekend won’t be the last cold front of the season, so even if temperatures climb back into the balmy 60s a week from now, please search your closets and encourage friends and family to do the same. This is a good time to let go of that coat or sweater that you remember fondly but likely will never again wear. Give it new a life, keeping someone else safe and warm.

There are more than 3,000 homeless people walking the streets of San Antonio every day. Many of them survive the cold nights without shelter for an array of complex reasons that often get lost in stereotypes. My mother always says, “Hoy para ti, mañana para mí.” This translates to, “Today for you, tomorrow for me.” Homelessness is a possibility we all face. It’s a fine line that separates the haves and have-nots in our world. Rather than pass judgment on others, let’s give others warmth and comfort this winter. It will make them — and us — feel so much better.

Please bring new or used outerwear (coats, sweaters, socks, gloves, caps, scarves, and blankets) on Friday, Dec. 13, 12-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at The Richter Co., 616 Broadway, near the intersection of McCullough Ave. All donations will be handed over to Haven for Hope for distribution.

The Richter Co. invites all donors to come inside and enjoy live music, food, refreshments, and a movie ticket raffle. Please register for the event at Cristina’s First Annual Coat Driveaganza on Facebook, and watch for future collection dates this winter.

P.S. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me the importance of giving back.

 

Cristina Flores, who celebrated her 24th birthday Saturday, works as an aide to Bexar County Commissioner, Precinct 4 Tommy Adkisson. She is a Corpus Christi native who now calls San Antonio home. She is passionate about social justice, civil rights, and aims to use that passion to improve public programs for marginalized groups. You can follow her on Twitter @cristinalflores.

 

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