Yesterday in Ann Arbor, we had temperatures that included a -45 degree windchill. -45 degrees! That’s almost incomprehensible. It’s just completely outside of our typical experience. It’s also dangerous to people, animals, and infrastructure.
In the final days before we reached these temperatures, I was moved to see community members cultivating care and safety for one another. There were big efforts to ensure ample shelter resources for people experiencing homelessness. Some initiated a very successful and helpful GoFundMe fundraiser to provide hotel rooms to people who have been living in tents throughout the winter so far.
Students from the Michigan Student Power Network launched a petition for the University of Michigan to close and cancel classes on Wednesday and Thursday, arguing that staying open (its nearby counterparts tend to close, but the University of Michigan has only closed twice since 1978) casts disproportionally negative impacts upon students, faculty, and staff with disabilities and low-income status. And the University closed for the third time since 1978.
A number of places opened their spaces as warming centers, including Go Ice Cream in Ypsilanti, whose staff said, “You don’t have to buy anything. We just want you to be safe!” and they offered hot cocoa throughout the day.
This is community care at its best.
I also think… what if community members had not risen to these occasions personally on their own? Would there have been adequate resources in the city? Or adequate attention to people who have vital needs in times like these?
After all, right here throughout this winter, people are living in tents in 20 and 30 degrees. And students with disabilities experience barriers in academia quite frequently. Some street dependent people cannot choose to go to daytime warming centers because they have to make money outside to pay for hotel rooms at night.
There is more to do. More solidarity, more advocacy, and more community care.
This week revealed more of what is needed and more of what is possible.