Higher Ground Outreach repair tents after snowstorm, render aid for homeless

GEORGETOWN, De- While winter storms for many on Delmarva might mean a snow day, or working from home, for the homeless population living in tent cities snow storms represent a threat to their make-shift shelter and can exacerbate health problems.

Higher Ground Outreach works to help homeless communities, offering to rebuild and replace tents that collapsed under the weight of snow, as well as offering free checkups, first aid, and medical diagnostics for the at-risk population.

“They need to have the shelter so they can at least be comfortable and safe and have warmth, a place to eat. They need to start somewhere. So a place like a tent is somewhat of a home and they can continue to grow into a better condition,” said Lou Hernandez of Higher Ground Outreach.

Higher Ground has a goal of replacing traditional tents with Teepee designs, allowing for snow to roll off the tents, and prevent collapses and injuries associated with them according to Hernandez. He tells us collapsing snow can lead to concussions, frostbite, and hypothermia.

One woman who lived in the makeshift camp tells 47ABC, her’s was one of the few tents that didn’t collapse as a result of the storms.

“Our tent was the only one that stayed up, and that’s because we did not sleep. We had to keep shaking the ice and snow off the roof so it wouldn’t collapse, so we were up all night,” she said. Higher Ground also works with nurse practitioner Rene Toney of Toney TotalHealth to render first aid, check-ups, and medical screenings for homeless people without access to medical care.

Terri tells us she is now aware of a serious medical condition she has thanks to Toney’s help. Rates of cold-related injuries and illness are in the homeless community according to Toney, who says those conditions are often on top of other chronic issues they may have.

“With the cold, I’m seeing hypothermic changes, cold, frostbite in the hands and feet, increased general fatigue and upper respiratory infections as well,” she said adding “a lot of these patients are not on their regular medications, so we are trying to get that to them to restore a better way of living for them.”

Terri tells us she is grateful for the help Higher Ground Outreach provides, and the great lengths they go to help a community so often and easily forgotten.

“If we didn’t have them, I don’t know what would happen to any of us back here, she said adding ” [Toney] is back here in a snowstorm putting tents back up I mean I thank god every day for them they are my angels.”

Hernandez and Toney tell us they want people to understand that while they are offering help, they are not in the business of handouts.

“I tell people I’m not giving out free stuff, I don’t carry any controlled substances, we are helping but if we are going to be putting your tent back up, the people whose belongings are out there have to be a part of it, it’s about empowering people but they need to be in it,” Toney said.

The group does collect donations, working with Shepherds Office in Georgetown. They say the greatest need is for space heaters, winter boots, and warmer clothing.

“These are not optimal conditions but we get it done,” Toney said.





Categories: Delaware, Local News