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View Full Version : Why do many homeless people wear heavy clothes in summer?


An Arky
08-10-2002, 09:23 AM
I live in the DC area, where there are lots of homeless folks, and I've noticed something curious. Many of them wear heavy winter clothes in the middle of summer; I'm talking down parkas, etc. I think that would have to be absolutely miserable, if not unhealthy. What gives? Is there some mental illness that affects your heat sensitivity? Does alcoholism do this?

Richard Pearse
08-10-2002, 09:27 AM
WAG: They need the clothes for winter and have nowhere safe to keep them in summer.

kanicbird
08-10-2002, 09:28 AM
my wag is that they will need it in the winter and they can't exactly store it in their closet

Una Persson
08-10-2002, 09:37 AM
In addition to the last two posts, large clothes also have lots of places to keep, and hide, any valuables or prized possessions that you may have.

clairobscur
08-10-2002, 09:51 AM
The weather isn't necessarily nice all the time, even during summer. What would an homeless person wear when it rains, when there's a cool night, etc? It's not like he could pick another set of clothes in his wardrobe, depending on the weather forecast for the next day...

RavingMad
08-10-2002, 11:19 AM
I live in the same area and have often wondered the same thing! I can't agree with the answers provided thus far, though.

While it's true that the homeless by definition lack a closet in which to store their winter wardrobe, it hardly means they're without a place for their stuff. The same homeless man who's wearing a parka in July will have a shopping cart parked next to his bench filled three feet over the brim with shopping bags full of his stuff. Why not simply add the coat to that pile of stuff?

Besides, even without a shopping cart in your possesion, it's not overly difficult to just take off the coat and lay it beside you, or even use it as a pillow!

I'm more inclined to believe it's tied in to some sort of mental illness.

An Arky
08-10-2002, 12:47 PM
I understand the "don't want to lose them" concept, and I'm sure that could be part of the reason, but like STARK said, it doesn't explain the guy in the parka with a shopping cart; I've seen this in people who DO have someplace to put the coat. Heck, some people without a/c or a fan DIE here when it's really hot, yet even when it's that hot (and HUMID, gawd!), you still see Parka Man trudging along in full klondike gear with his shopping cart...

Feynn
08-10-2002, 01:19 PM
I believe that when you are carrying everything you own with you it must be more convenient to wear the clothes you have.

I work with developmentally delayed persons and we have noticed that in some cases, the ability to sense temperatures can be impaired or even reversed. One client I work with will wear light clothes in the winter and heavy clothes on the hottest days if he is allowed to make his clothing choices independently. He is a reasonably intelligent person with good skills in most areas but has an impaired sense of external temperatures.

Spit
08-10-2002, 01:43 PM
Crazy thought....Why not give one $5 and ask? Something along the lines of "Aren't you hot in that coat?" or something. They get $5, you get an answer.

kanicbird
08-10-2002, 02:17 PM
It's a little more than 100 miles from NYC so you'd think it wouldn't be a problem.


I have noticed when I go scuba diving when I have a long walk on soft sand is it far easier to suit up at the car with just the mask, fins and speargun in my hand and just sweat my #&$%en @$$ off till I get into the water (most of my dives are shore dives as opposed to boat dives) then to carry everything to the shore then suit up - maybe the same thing applies.

Also fear of theft might have something to do with it esp. when the bum thinks he has a very good coat. If you go to sleep or go away from your shopping cart the thing might not be there when you get back but your coat mostlikly will.

Now that I think of it when I go hiking and set up a base camp to climb a mountain or something when I leave the base camp unattended I will always bring with me supplies I need to be able to stay the night and to get out if the base camp was raided/stolen/destroyed or if I get los..... I mean if the base camp didn't stay where I put it and wonders off by itself and gets lost.

Now I don't go around wearing my winter parka (well not in the summer at least) but then again I have access to high tech gear that the average bum doesn't.

kanicbird
08-10-2002, 02:23 PM
ignore that quote it was ment for another thread

elmwood
08-10-2002, 03:08 PM
I was jokingly going to say "fashion," but I suspect that it may be some sort of mental illness that affects the way people sense temperatures.

One time, my then-girlfriend and I spent the afternoon at White Sands National Monument. (See http://luminous-landscape.com/images/White-Sands-thumb.jpg) We forgot our suntan lotion, so we said "screw it ... we'll stay for a few hours, and then get under the shade." After a few hours, we felt chilly ... then cold. The temperature outside was 105F, or 38C. We decided to head back to Las Cruces, so we hopped in my car, TURNED ON THE HEATER, and shivered on the drive back. We spent the night shivering under the covers, heat on in the apartment. Remember, this is July in Southern New Mexico.

I've noticed that many African-Americans tend to percieve temperatures as about 10 to 20 dedrees colder than they actually are. It's a common sight in a warm Buffalo summer, temperatures about 75 or 80 outside, to see blacks dressed in clothing and jackets more appropriate for the fall, or even winter. We're talking about people who are otherwise not mentally disturbed, wearking light jackets or even parkas in the summertime.

In Denver, on the other hand, the outdoorsy crowd would often dress very lightly in the winter, even wearing shorts, so they could get used to the colder temperatures for their outdoor adventures.

Here in Florida, I often encounter people wearing clothes that are a bit unseasonal; long sleeve shirts and pants when it's 95 degrees outside. Why? Go into someplace that's air conditioned, where the temperature is about 68, and have a few cold drinks. Brrrrr ....

elmwood
08-10-2002, 03:16 PM
I was jokingly going to say "fashion," but I suspect that it may be some sort of mental illness that affects the way people sense temperatures.

One time, my then-girlfriend and I spent the afternoon at White Sands National Monument. (See http://luminous-landscape.com/images/White-Sands-thumb.jpg) We forgot our suntan lotion, so we said "screw it ... we'll stay for a few hours, and then get under the shade." After a few hours, we felt chilly ... then cold. The temperature outside was 105F, or 38C. We decided to head back to Las Cruces, so we hopped in my car, TURNED ON THE HEATER, and shivered on the drive back. We spent the night shivering under the covers, heat on in the apartment. Remember, this is July in Southern New Mexico.

I've noticed that many African-Americans tend to percieve temperatures as about 10 to 20 dedrees colder than they actually are. It's a common sight in a warm Buffalo summer, temperatures about 75 or 80 outside, to see blacks dressed in clothing and jackets more appropriate for the fall, or even winter. We're talking about people who are otherwise not mentally disturbed, wearking light jackets or even parkas in the summertime.

In Denver, on the other hand, the outdoorsy crowd would often dress very lightly in the winter, even wearing shorts, so they could get used to the colder temperatures for their outdoor adventures.

Here in Florida, I often encounter people wearing clothes that are a bit unseasonal; long sleeve shirts and pants when it's 95 degrees outside. Why? Go into someplace that's air conditioned, where the temperature is about 68, and have a few cold drinks. Brrrrr ....

Squish
08-10-2002, 04:32 PM
Originally posted by elmwood
After a few hours, we felt chilly ... then cold. The temperature outside was 105F, or 38C. We decided to head back to Las Cruces, so we hopped in my car, TURNED ON THE HEATER, and shivered on the drive back. We spent the night shivering under the covers, heat on in the apartment. Remember, this is July in Southern New Mexico.
:eek: That's a symptom of heat stroke--I'm glad you got out when you did!

Llama Llogophile
08-10-2002, 09:30 PM
I remember reading somewhere that many people with mental disorders have an inability to properly sense body temperature, so I think Feynn's explanation is correct.

cookeze
08-11-2002, 04:12 AM
The heroin addicts that I've known get cold flashes when they are going into withdrawal. Certainly not all, but a large number of the homeless are addicts.

I believe the term "cold turkey" refers to the goosebumps that addicts are prone to. Hence, the extra clothes.

dirty1
08-11-2002, 12:00 PM
Maybe they are trying cover up their stench.

Potter
08-11-2002, 12:51 PM
Several wags:

Many rough sleepers I've come into contact with have said they've had difficulty sleeping the night through due to extreme cold, interruption/harrassment, fear, lack of comfort. When I'm sleep-deprived and have not had a good night of uninterrupted sleep for awhile, I feel cold. I'll shiver, hug the heater, take a hot bath to get rid of the chill, and have sometimes actually burnt my hands in hot water trying to get them warm. My hands were already warm, but due to exhaustion I did not perceive them to be so went too far.

Mental health issues. Your perception of 'reality' is dysfunctional. It becomes difficult to listen to your body when it is telling you that you're hungry/sick/exhausted/injured etc as you are disconnected to a certain extent from your body and its reality. I imagine some resistance to extremes of temperature comes into this, which also goes some way toward explaining why some rough sleepers seem to willingly suffer sub-zero temperatures in the winter and risk frostbite/death, rather than seek help at a local shelter or hospital.

Physical addiction, in two ways. The first, your perception of your body is altered and as an addict you begin to relate to it only in terms of the drug - are you high/drunk? If not, why not? When will you be high/drunk again? For example, heroin itself does not generally cause loss of weight, but many people's mental image of a heroin addict will be bone-thin: when you are addicted to heroin to a high extent, you stop listening to your body when it tells you it's hungry. Sustenance becomes your next fix, not your next meal. In the same way, you simply might not be paying attention to the fact you're too hot. It's not important, as you're either high and enjoying that, withdrawing and hating it, or too concerned with the means to obtain your next dose. There is also cookeze's point - withdrawal can give you cold flashes and the shivers. In the same way that you will feel cold and shiver when you're suffering from a high temperature due to sickness; if you're shivering and feel cold for whatever reason, no amount of evidence to the contrary will stop the perceived chill.

Hunger. Two ways: Going hungry can leave you feeling cold and under-the-weather, in the same way that a large meal of rich food can make you sweat and feel hot. Also, I have often been underweight for my height. When I've lived in hot climates I've seldom felt the heat to the extent that the people around me have. When I visited Death Valley one August, I was the idiot wandering around in a jacket and jeans. I honesty didn't feel that hot, in temperatures of 110 degrees plus. I only felt terribly thirsty.

Finally, I also agree to some extent with 'having' to wear the jacket - yes, you could take it off and store it with your other possessions, but that leaves it vulnerable. Clothing and the means to warmth are of primary importance to a rough sleeper. If you are constantly aware that you and your possessions are vulnerable and risk theft, you instinctively keep the most important items closest to you i.e on your person.

I very much doubt that a rough sleeper's main concern is that his/her "stench" is enough of a problem to warrant personal discomfort.

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