Chi-Beria: Where Celsius Meets Fahrenheit

Where Celsius Meets Fahrenheit:  -40 Degrees

Where Celsius Meets Fahrenheit:
-40 Degrees

It’s official: it’s too cold to be outside safely in Chicago.  Negative 15 degrees, fahrenheit. Negative 40 degrees with windchill.

Chicago Public Schools are closed. University of Chicago cancelled classes. Non-essential personnel, of which I am one, can stay home. Chicago Family Health Center is closed for today.

Depending on weather conditions, Tuesday may be another stay-in-my-pajamas and work-from-home day.  I’ll find out tomorrow afternoon.  I’m inside today, insulated from the cold, listening to the radiator hiss, hot tea at my side.

I am warm. Thank god.

An article in the Chicago Sun Times provides a stark reminder. “For the city’s homeless population, remaining outdoors could be fatal.”

They report that homeless shelters are overflowing, placing mats everywhere possible. The Pacific Garden Mission, the city’s largest homeless shelter, expects to see record breaking numbers of people seeking shelter. The record of 1016 shelter-seekers in one night, mind you, was set last week.

A note from the maintenance man at the clinic is a reminder that heating can fail for any of us.

“In case you or your family may experience problems related to the cold, I am attaching a listing of the City of Chicago Warming Centers as well as the city’s link.”

The attached list of warming centers (open extended hours of 9am-8pm yesterday to tomorrow, except for one that’s opened 24 hours) ended with a reminder that landlords must keep the temperature at 68 degrees during the days, 66 degrees at night. “If you are unable to resolve a heating problem with your landlord, call 3-1-1”

Call the city for extra help in intimidating lackluster landlords into providing warmth. Will the city be able to intervene effectively?  I’m imagining a roomful of housing lawyers.  Maybe a law school clinic.  Probably one overworked clerk placing phonecalls to numbers that are no longer in service. Hopefully landlords will be responsible, boilers will be up to date, pipes will be insulated, so the pipes don’t freeze and the heat stays on. Basic measures to provide critical health services: access to clean water and warmth in winter.

I hope my patients—and I!—all survive these next few days.

How are you surviving the cold?

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