Fighting to Stay Warm on a Budget [AUDIO]
"We see people making really difficult and tough choices," said Dr. Deborah Carr, professor of sociology at Rutgers University. "One is that if they're spending more on heat, maybe they'll cut back on food and other things they need."
Some towns do offer their own temporary heating shelters, according to Carr.
"But obviously, that's really disruptive if you have young children and you haul them to a public space with sleeping bags overnight," Carr said. "It's very, very disruptive and it still requires going outside in the cold."
Carr added when the weather gets really cold, some families rely on dangerous ways to keep warm, such as leaving the oven or a space heater on -- even though both of those methods carry a fairly high fire risk.
"We'll often hear about these horrible fires in the winter," Carr said. "Don't keep the stove on all night, don't use multiple space heaters if they look like they're not in good shape."
Some groups are more vulnerable to the cold weather than others.
"This is something that can really be a problem for the very poorest people, and for those who live in apartment buildings, sometimes the landlords won't supply ample heat, which also raises huge concerns," Carr said.