Chicago winters can be deadly, but this local musician is trying to help.
Chicago winters are awful.
And I say that as someone who has spent all 29 years of her life living in and around my dear Chicago city by the lake. Winters here aren't just "brrr, I'm feeling a little chilly," they're full on having to worry about losing a few digits if you leave your fingers exposed to the cold winter air for more than a few minutes.
I can't even imagine how bad it must be to be homeless and have to endure sub-zero Chicago winter weather.
Sadly, many aren't able to endure the city's fatal freeze. And with an estimated 125,000 homeless Chicagoans gearing up to take on the winter, they could really use some help now more than ever.
And that's where Chicago-born artist Chance the Rapper comes in.
"They say I'm saving my city, say I'm staying for good / They screaming Chano for mayor, I'm thinking maybe I should," Chance raps in "Somewhere in Paradise," one of two songs he premiered on the "Saturday Night Live" stage last week.
His history-making performance — he was the first independent artist to appear as a musical guest on "SNL" — got rave reviews, but it's those lyrics and how he's living up to them that's making news today.
So how is he "saving his city"?
On Dec. 16, 2015, Chance launched Warmest Winter 2016, a fundraising effort to help raise money to get coats to Chicago's homeless population.
His goal is to raise $100,000 — enough money to manufacture 1,000 EMPWR coats from The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit nonprofit.
The coats are self-heating jackets made from upcycled auto insulation, Carhartt fabric, and donor-provided materials. They can be turned into a sleeping bag and transform into an over-the-shoulder bag for carrying items.
Here's a bit from the EMPWR website (emphasis added):
"The Empowerment Plan can produce 1,000 coats on a budget of $100,000. Our studies show that for each 1,000 coats distributed, we can save 14 lives and reduce healthcare costs by $58,800 annually. Also, each recipient of an EMPWR Coat will make at least one less emergency room visit per year due to hypothermia. Assuming an average cost of $4,200 per visit, we estimate reduced healthcare costs of $58,800 for every 1,000 coats we distribute. Each year approximately 7% of homeless individuals die from hypothermia. Our coat reduces this statistic by over 20%."
Pretty cool, right?
It's not the first — and almost certainly won't be the last — time Chance will do something great for people in need.
Earlier this year, he helped find jobs for 500 people on Chicago's south side. And just months before that, he surprised a group of kids with a trip to the Field Museum.
In 2014, he used his influence on social media to effectively call for a citywide ceasefire over Memorial Day weekend. And for 42 peaceful hours, not a single person in the city was shot.
Now, of course, that's not to say Chance is without his flaws or controversies. Some have argued that lyrics on some of his older songs are misogynistic and homophobic.
That said, the work he's doing off the mic is saving and enriching the lives of others, and that's worth a whole lot.
So, if you're looking for a cause to donate to — one that will literally save lives — consider Chance's Warmest Winter.
There'll be a lot of chilly Chicagoans ready to thank you.