Cold snap has homeless shelter at full capacity

A greater number of people are turning to the Mustard Seed to get warm this winter — and especially this week.

Animal care advocates remind pet owners not to leave cats and dogs outside for long

Marlow Ramsey, director of basic services at the Mustard Seed, says the downtown shelter is filling up much earlier in the evenings as homeless Calgarians seek a warm place to sleep. (CBC)

A greater number of people are turning to the Mustard Seed to get warm this winter — especially this week.

The June flood, a lack of affordable housing and an extremely tight rental market have all contributed to the spike, said the shelter's basic services director Marlow Ramsey.

“It is a tight squeeze and what we're finding is we're filling up much earlier in the evening. So by 6:30 we can be full, whereas in previous years it might have been 9:30 or something like that,” he said.

Usually the shelter asks its clients to leave during the day and come back at night. But it’s staying open all day this week because of the cold weather.

Plus-15 walkways offer refuge 

Calgary's vast network of Plus-15 walkways are packed with people when it's cold outside. (CBC)

Homeless Calgarians and downtown workers alike are making good use of the vast Plus 15 network when the temperature plummets.

Businsess in the elevated walkways is thriving in the cold snap, said Calgary Downtown Association executive director Maggie Schofield.

“When the weather is inclement they do really well but unfortunately the street services don't do as well, but there's a balance and on those really great summer days people aren't in those Plus 15s as much, so this is their time to shine,” she said.

Cold dangerous for pets

While this week's blizzard and cold snap has people shivering across southern Alberta, the Calgary Humane Society is reminding residents it can be deadly for pets.

"Even though it's an animal, it's a domesticated animal. They aren't bred for living outside and they can definitely die in this cold weather,” said Phil Fulton, the society’s community outreach manager.

For some animals, though, the frigid temperatures are not a problem.

Kelly Koss, who manages the horse program at Spruce Meadows, said her animals can withstand temperatures of -30C.

"When a big storm hits, they'll stand with their bums to the wind and their heads away from the wind. So that also creates a bit of a shield for them,” she said.

But Spruce Meadows is giving its horses a little more food this week to build up their fat. They also use horse blankets and heated stables.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.