Extreme cold especially tough for homeless

Shelters and other agencies that provide emergency support for vulnerable people say the extreme cold is presenting challenges.

Emergency shelter for men in Regina nearly full most nights

Tyler Gray, at the Carmichael Outreach Centre in Regina, says winter gear such as warm coats and mitts, is flying off the shelves this year because of the long spells of bitter cold. (CBC)

Shelters and other agencies that provide emergency support for vulnerable people say the extreme cold is presenting challenges.

In Regina, at the Salvation Army's Waterston Centre, they have enough temporary beds for 52 men per night and, most nights, they have needed nearly all of them.

"This year has been extremely cold and because of that more and more folk have actually come to us to get in from the cold," Martin McCarter, executive director of the shelter, told CBC News Thursday.

I hope spring is going to come soon.- Martin McCarter, Waterston Centre

The shelter had just recently expanded, from 32 beds to 52 beds, McCarter said, which proved to be needed.

"Thus far we've had since December, on average, 47 to 48 beds occupied every night," he said. "They're not only cold. They're tired and they need a place to rest."

The centre, with support from donations, is also able to provide a supper to those seeking shelter and some clothes, such as toques, gloves and socks.

"I hope spring is going to come soon," McCarter said. "I think our staff are feeling the strain now because it has been long spells of very cold winter months and it's been really tough keeping things going."

Another Regina agency that provides assistance to vulnerable people is Carmichael Outreach, where they have faced a steady stream of people who need winter clothing. In many cases, people have inadequate resources to get and maintain proper winter wear.

"They get a piece of clothing and they wear it until  it gets dirty and not usable anymore," Tyler Gray, from Carmichael Outreach, explained. "[Sometimes] somebody else comes along and it gets stolen or misplaced and then they are right back where they started seeking that same piece of clothing to keep them warm."

Need is great for donations

Gray said donations are sorted by volunteers and made available to anyone who walks in, who is in need. He said a room full of items on a Monday is often down to just few things by the end of the week.

  • The Salvation Army Waterston Centre is located at 1865 Osler Street in Regina.
  • The Carmichael Outreach Centre is located at 1925 Osler Street in Regina.
  • The Lighthouse is located in downtown Saskatoon, on the corner of 2nd Avenue South and 20th Avenue East.

"The winter has been pretty bitter for people," he said. "And so the stuff is kind of flowing off the shelves."

Gray said all sorts of donations are useful, including bedsheets and warm blankets.

"You have people who come in and they have not very good heat or poor maintenance of the heat in their building so they need extra blankets to stay warm," he said.

Agencies in Saskatoon are encountering the same challenges for vulnerable people in that city. The Lighthouse recently put a van on the streets to find and provide aid to at-risk people on the streets.

"We bring them, if they are intoxicated to a stabilization unit or if they don't have housing we house them," Tommy Laplante, from the Lighthouse Mobile Outreach, explained.

The van has only been out for 10 nights, and has already provided direct assistance to 20 people.