Homelessness in winter: how to help when the temperature drops

As a cold snap persists in Vancouver, homeless advocate Judy Graves offers practical advice on how to lend a helping hand.

5 ways to lend a helping hand to people living on the street during the cold snap

Homeless advocate Judy Graves says there are many ways to help homeless people when the temperature drops. (CBC )

The issue of how to keep homeless people safe remains at the forefront as a cold snap persists in Vancouver.

Mayoral candidates Gregor Robertson (Vision Vancouver) and Kirk LaPointe (NPA) both stressed at a live debate on Wednesday the need to move homeless people into winter shelters.

But homeless advocate Judy Graves points out that shelters are not for everyone.

Graves said issues like claustrophobia, agoraphobia and mental illnesses can make people wary of being inside. 

"It's good to encourage people to go into the extra shelter space, but shelters don't work for part of the population and it's really important we don't judge those people because of it," she told The Early Edition.

Graves noted there are other ways to help the homeless survive the chill.

Here are five suggestions she has to help those living on the streets stay warm:

  1. Give them cardboard so they can layer the pieces underneath them and insulate themselves from the sidewalk.
  2. Provide them with blankets and warm, dry clothes.
  3. Give them something warm to drink because the risk of dehydration still exists even in the cold. 
  4. If they've had alcohol, make sure they're not too drunk to make decisions about whether they're warm enough.
  5. If they are extremely drunk, call the police so they can be taken to detox and be kept warm overnight.

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