Preventing and Temporarily Treating Frostbite
During the Great Depression, few businesses thrived. More people were looking for work and traveling for that purpose, but without funds, so shoes and bicycles sales increased. While people ordinarily wouldn't be outside in Winter walking or riding their bikes, it happened with greater frequency. They also might be doing so if there was news of a temporary place to stay, a church offering a hot meal, or trying to get to a family member who lived some distance away.
Other than that, they would travel via empty railroad boxcars, something that is extraordinarily dangerous today. The railroads do not tolerate that, and you're liable to get clubbed in the head. Don't do it. In the past people took pity and sometimes putting out food. In my area, I know of a bakery that placed old doughnuts around a special spot near the railroad tracks, and hobos sometimes would mark these areas with symbols in order to help fellow hobos out. See:
[link to www.worldpath.net
They also might practically relocate to warmer climate to avoid the worst of the seasonal change. Homeless folks often do this as warmer climates normally have higher tourists around and sometimes more money can be made from people with more disposable income. This routinely happens and the homeless today will often move based upon local festivals too.
Most people don't know or haven't thought about these kinds of issues since ordinarily they've managed to pay their bills. However many people have about one month of backup funds, and once that's run out they've got very little reserve to fall back on. If you're one of those kinds of people, and if we have an economic crisis, then you might very well find yourself relocating in Winter with little to no money.
Frostbite can quickly happen on exposed skin if there is any wind at all. Everyone's heard of windchill. Most people move quickly from a house to a car to another structure and avoid the worst of it. Since those areas are heated, it usually isn't a big deal to dress improperly.
When people are outside and not wearing adequate clothing, most of the heat loss occurs from not wearing a good cap and gloves. Most shoes are not insulated. As a person gets cold, the body's natural response is to shut down core systems and divert blood to the core. This means that fingers, tips of ears and nose and lips, toes, etc can take the brunt of the wicking effects of cold wintery wind and frostbite can begin.
Usually the skin will take on a waxy appearance and will ache. As it progresses, nerve damage can occur, and since the person can get stuporous from being so cold, they will often keep trudging through the snow and bad weather to get to a warmer place. Many homeless folks will freeze to death. If you have gloves and a cap and a warm coat and insulated boots, and some other homeless person doesn't, you very well might be a target if they can steal them and get warm.
You need insulation, and that means forgetting about your pride and using whatever insulating materials you can like newspapers, carboard, cattail down, dry leaves, etc in order to create dead air space between layers and get yourself warm. Those items can be put in boots or clothing or placed beneath you and the cold ground or fill your shelter in order to insulate out the draft and cold.
If you get hot from the layers, and allow yourself to sweat from wearing the extra clothes and entering public places to get warm, and then go back in the cold with damp clothing, then you'll also freeze the moisture in your clothes. It is far easier to happen than you realize because today people don't walk in winter. They don't usually have to.
The very best way to prevent frostbite is to dress appropriately with a face mask and a cap. Imagine riding on a bike with the wind blowing and sliding from the snow and ice. Riding for only a short time with a bare head you can imagine how dangerous that could be. Not wearing insulated boots and having to walk for miles across snowy terrain, each boot step sinking into 8 inches of show with the sunlight going down, could kill you. You must wear good gloves and gear else slowly but surely the wind and cold will make your body enter survival mode and damage your extremities.
People usually travel in groups. If your hands start to ache or feel numb, it's hard to evaluate the progression of frostbite and much better if your companion looks at it.
When people start to freeze, and as their core plummets, they tend to get sleepy and lose consciousness.
I've written earlier about making a debris hut. If it's cold in winter, but not wet or there's no snow, you still can make one, but of course it will take you longer since you're sluggish and it's hard to move around with all those layers. Knowing how to make a snow shelter would be an extremely useful skill, but beyond this topic.
During the Civil War, soldiers or irregulars might temporarily stop fighting (most of the time) by digging in a foxhole of some size, supporting it with found logs or branches and then adding water to mud and grasses to make a survival cement. One the logs were cemented with the grass/earth mixture, they would pile on an insulating layer of earth, and it would be disguised. A vent hole would be made to channel out some of the smoke from a fire pit. Obviously that's a semi-permanent structure, and takes a lot of time, unless you've got several people working on it. Winter is the worst possible time to build a structure as you're using up a lot of calories when materials, food, fresh water, etc are very hard to come by. This kind of structure most likely would be built in any other season but Winter.
Even if you were blessed by the Source and didn't have to be homeless or bugging out, you very well might see lots of transient people moving South. This means that their problems could become your problems. 99% of them will have no experience with making shelters, fire, gathering water, food, and simply staying warm. You'll see them more in public spaces and milling around places where they can ask for money or food. Your churches or temples might have many more of them asking for help.
Most churches or temples don't give out funds directly. Because there are so many people needing public assistance (ask around, you'll be shocked), the homeless are referred to a central agency, and they will have to travel there to get any help, vouchers, a warm meal in order to prevent the same family or individual asking from multiple churches. They were never set up to handle the kinds of volume of people we might see from a collapse. Someone has to donate money to handle that number in order to help them, and people are giving less, not more, as their disposable income drops.
Many ordinary homeless people have issues beyond poverty. Some have mental issues like schizophrenia or manic depression or drug addiction. Because of that, you have to be very vigilant about people asking for help. You could suddenly find someone asking for help at night and in a place where you can't get away if they become violent. Most homeless folks aren't violent, just deperate. The kinds of homeless people might radically change as the economy declines. Desperate people will do desperate things and justify their behavior to save their lives.
If you're a spiritual person, a person with survival skills, a person with excess funds, a person who can motivate people to donate, a person who can organize things, or simply willing to roll up your sleeves and work, then you can do the work of the Source.