Paramedics ask the public for warm socks, other winter items to donate to unhoused population

Minnesotans know that dressing for the elements is a necessity.

Frostbite can lead to serious injuries, and paramedics are often the people who see some of the worst.

Paramedics say for someone living on the streets, warm socks could go a long way to prevent an amputation.

That’s why they’re asking the community for help.

Drive through the community and you’ll see tents lining the streets. 

For some Minnesotans, this is the only shelter they know — and in the dead of winter, conditions are brutal. 

“These folks will often have to walk the majority of their day once they leave the sheltered environment,” said Sam Erickson, a Hennepin County paramedic. “I bet every paramedic at Hennepin EMS could tell you a story about people they see, typically unhoused people, who have terrible frostbite and have lost fingers.” 

These can be life-altering injuries — and in most cases, they’re preventable with the proper gear. 

Which is why Sam is dropping a box — one of many — filled with winter necessities as part of the Hennepin County Association of Paramedics sock drive.

Not only do they carry the gear with them on calls — but they also donate to other outreach organizations.

“We’re oftentimes the first point of contact for youth that are experiencing homelessness,” said Laura Phelps, a collaborative administrator with the nonprofit StreetWorks. She spends most of her time on the street, helping kids and teens in crisis.

“When we can give people new, warm dry socks and they can take off the old, wet, damp socks,” Phelps said. “I mean, we’re fighting foot infections like fungal and bacterial, we’re fighting hypothermia, frostbite.” 

Both paramedics and outreach groups know this isn’t the solution.

“They need housing. That’s number one,” said Erickson. “But this can help them make that bridge so that they don’t get these life-altering injuries.” 

But for the time being, it makes a difference.

“It’s amazing when we can see people get super excited about a pair of socks,” Phelps said.

The sock drive will go through the month of December.

If you’re interested in donating any winter gear, click here. “HCAP” has it set up so you can order directly from amazon or target and the gear will get shipped right to them.