Advocates fear for homeless and seniors during cold stretch

There are hundreds of people living in tents or makeshift shelters throughout the Fraser Valley and homeless advocate Ward Draper fears some of them won’t survive this stretch of frigid weather.

Abbotsford pastor says he’s concerned people who sleep outside will freeze to death

Homeless advocates fear people who live in tents in the Fraser Valley won't be able to keep warm during this cold stretch. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

There are hundreds of people living in tents or makeshift shelters throughout the Fraser Valley. Homeless advocate Ward Draper fears some of them won't survive this stretch of frigid weather.

Draper, a pastor with 5 and 2 Ministries in Abbotsford, estimates there are 100 people in the city who sleep outdoors.

"Would you be okay if you slept outside in minus 20 C weather in a sleeping bag? Of course not," Draper said.

"I had an incident a couple of weeks ago with a mother whose son almost lost some toes [to frostbite] because he was sleeping outside."

The B.C. Coroners Service links last month's death of a 51-year-old homeless woman in Chilliwack to cold weather.

Draper says shelters across the province are in desperate need of resources. He said making a donation could help save a person's life.

Seniors isolated

The Disability Alliance of B.C. says the weather is also taking a toll on seniors and people with disabilities.

Executive Director Jane Dyson says many are unable to get around on icy sidewalks.

"If you're a wheelchair user or a scooter user or you use a mobility device like a walker, it's very difficult," Dyson said.

"We're very concerned that people with disabilities and seniors are becoming isolated in their own homes because they can't get out or they're scared to get out."

Fabio Feldman, manager of patient safety with the Fraser Health Authority, says seniors can become more susceptible to falling when they're shut in.

"What happens is, because of the weather, is that people avoid going out," Feldman said.

"People that were going to go out and do some physical activity or exercise, if they get trapped at home and they're not able to exercise, it will increase their chances of falling and having a hip fracture," he said.

With files from Anita Bathe