Winter weather has Calgary homeless shelters filling up

Calgary's homeless shelters are at full capacity as the bitter cold has thousands of people looking for a warm place to stay.

Mustard Seed usually at full capacity by 7 p.m.

Calgary's homeless shelters are at full capacity as the bitter cold has thousands of people looking for a warm place to stay. 2:07

Calgary's homeless shelters are at full capacity as the bitter cold has thousands of people looking for a warm place to stay.

“There is more demand certainly, there are more people looking for places,” said Marlow Ramsey, director of basic services at The Mustard Seed.

A bigger supply of affordable housing would ease the crunch at homeless shelters such as The Mustard Seed, said support services director Cliffe Wiebe. (CBC)

The shelter, which has room for 370 people, is usually full by 7 p.m. MT.

“The answer to this is more affordable housing in our city. We’re seeing people coming to Calgary looking for work, and not being able to … find a place in this city that has very, very low rental vacancies,” said Cliffe Wiebe, Mustard Seed’s director of support services.

Victor Collard has been on the streets for just the last four months after losing his job and his home.

“The worst part is not having a place to go and a nice warm bed to sleep in and you can't even have a nice hot shower. I don't even have a warm winter coat,” he said.

Collard still has his old Jeep Cherokee, but when he tried sleeping in it he almost froze, he said.

Michelle Kukurudza, 41, is about to experience her first Calgary winter without a home after running out of money and losing her apartment in July.

"This is a big shock to the system. I'm dressed in several layers,” she said.

"You're so down when you have nothing already and then when it's cold out is just a big reminder you don't have a home you don't have a warm bed.”

Mark Hardie, 34, has been on the streets so long he knows all the good places to warm up, he said.

“Well if you sleep in any of the bank machines or anything security’s on to you right away, they kick you out pretty fast. There's a place … next to City Hall, it blows a little bit of warm air. There's a couple of places in the back lanes that blow warm air into the lane,” he said.

He wanders the city with a suitcase said some nights goes to the airport and sleeps in a chair, pretending to be a passenger waiting for a flight.

With files from the CBC's Neil Herland

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