British Columbia

'I don't really sleep': Surviving a freezing B.C. winter when you have no home

With temperatures expected to continue to drop well below freezing, this is what some people are doing to survive the sub-zero temperatures while living without a home.

Blow dryers and blankets are some of the things people use to stay warm

People in set up tents in a Kelowna park for shelter before nightfall. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Kelowna and Prince George are just a few of the many cities across British Columbia that are struggling with increasing homelessness.

Earlier this week in Kelowna, the city shut down a growing tent city on a downtown street and opened up two parks where people can camp at night. The city's shelters are full and a winter shelter location still hasn't been identified.

Meanwhile, in Prince George some say they have to line up early in the day to be able to secure a shelter spot. 

With temperatures expected to continue to drop well below freezing, this is what some people are doing to survive the sub-zero temperatures while living without a home.

Leonard Willard (left) and Star Quaw sit on a curb in Prince George. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Friends Leonard Willard and Star Quaw try to look after each other in Prince George. They say it's tough to get spots in a shelter. "It's hard to sleep in the cold," said Quaw.

"I don't really sleep. I sleep maybe once a week," added Willard.

When they can't get a spot inside, they cover up with a tarp and try to find somewhere to plug in a hair-dryer they have.

"It warms you up," said Willard.

Jolene Hansen — who is from Fort St. James and now lives in Prince George — has survived two decades of homelessness.

"There used to be a spot behind the City Hall where the heat used to come out. That was one of the spots I used to sleep at night. I stayed there one whole winter. They shut it off now," said Hansen.

Trevor Charles would line up early to get a spot in a shelter in Prince George. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Trevor Charles, who was homeless for four years in Prince George, would line up early to get into a shelter.

"If you're not there right at the right time to get a bed, you're probably going to sleep outside for the night," he said. 

"If you're the 15th guy or 14th guy, you're probably not going to get a bed."

Gina Thomson says the wind in Kelowna is a 'big factor' in how cold it gets at night. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Gina Thomson, sleeps in a tent in a Kelowna park designated for people who don't have shelter during the night. She said being in an open park instead of on a downtown street means the cold wind off Okanagan Lake isn't blocked by buildings. 

Thomson said she wears about five layers of clothing to stay warm and has a bag filled with blankets. 

With files from Brady Strachan, Daybreak South and Daybreak North

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