Calgary agencies count homeless people in the cold

Social agencies around the city are tallying up the number of homeless people in Calgary.

Final numbers should be ready in February

Social agencies around the city are tallying up the number of homeless people in Calgary.

The final total should be ready sometime in February.

To make the difficult calculation, teams of volunteers, agencies, city workers and emergency crews scoured the city Wednesday night to see how many people were sleeping outside, in shelters and in temporary homes.

The volunteers looked in every nook, parking lot, bush and alley — they even walked the train tracks and searched by helicopter.

They are all looking for the same thing: rough sleepers, those who sleep outside — something that can gets dangerous in -30 C weather.

But the Homeless Foundation's Andrea Ranson said there are many of them.

"What we'll be doing ... is very quickly just counting them and asking them if they need help," she said, adding they have sleeping bags.

While many of the volunteers had snow pants and thermoses, Danny Bixby was wearing a cotton shirt and a ball cap at the downtown building where the searchers were congregating before heading out.

"I'm used to the cold," he said.  

Bixby was likely one of the roughly 4,000 people tallied nearly four years ago in the last city-wide count.

At that time he lived in a downtown alley. Bixby says he made it through cold nights by walking.

"It's not fun out there," he said.

While he lived on the street for roughly 20 years, Bixby now has a place to call his own in the Bowness neighbourhood.