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How you can help paramedics stock up on socks for the homeless

Hennepin EMS says cold weather foot injuries are some of the most common that they see, but high quality winter socks can make a difference.

On any December day or night in Hennepin County, 600 people are living outside.

John Sylvester knows it better than most, as a paramedic.

"Homelessness especially in a northern climate like this is never simple," Sylvester said. "It's never one thing that can put someone on streets or not."

Living outside has never been more prevalent in our community than it has been this year, as a pandemic hits those of us closest to the margins the hardest. But now as winter looms ever closer, and colder, the threat of what cold can do to those outside day and night, is becoming an immediate reality.

"In many of the unsheltered population we serve, we see a lot of cold weather foot injuries," Sylvester explained. "Many of these people are forced to walk from place to place all day long, looking for food, shelter, services."

John has seen this up close for three years, which is why he and his team decided it was time to stock up on socks.

"Socks are huge for people. Number one ... request, people living on streets do request," he said.

They tried this a few years ago and felt it made a difference. 

"We collected I think about 3,000 pairs of socks last year through the sock drive and they are gone, they are all out in the community," Sylvester said. "They were all out in the community by about mid-summer so we don't have any storage left."

The sock stash is gone, so it's up to us to buy more.

The team has made it easy. You buy from one of two registries, and the socks go straight to the paramedics, and they give them straightaway to those who need them.

You can make a contactless online donation to the Hennepin EMS Holiday Sock Drive in one of two ways:

"For us it's hyper-local," Sylvester said. "It's a physical thing you are sending to us that we are then giving to someone who is in need. This is not funding administration or any of that, this is a piece that comes to us which goes to someone in need."

It doesn't cost much to do and it doesn't take all that much time; but in a year where we have all asked, "Well, what can I do?" This is something that is not at all, nothing.

"I mean this is a very Minnesotan thing to give right?" Sylvester said. "This one thing can make a huge difference in somebody's life and help them move forward in their life to really get back on their feet."

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