Calgary homeless shelters need warm clothes as temperatures drop

As Calgary’s long winter sets in, people who help the city’s homeless population are putting out the call for cold-weather gear like warm coats, mitts and tuques.

Coats, mitts, gloves, tuques, socks and pants in high demand

Calgary's Drop-In Centre and other organizations that help the homeless population need donations of warm coats, socks, tuques, scarves and gloves. (CBC)

As Calgary's long winter sets in, people who help the city's homeless population are putting out the call for cold-weather gear like warm coats, mitts and tuques.

Mustard Seed volunteer co-ordinator Ashley Charron says guests at the downtown shelter typically spend several hours outside during the day, many of them vying for odd jobs at the corner of Centre Street and 12th Avenue S.W.

"Some of them are working outside, some of them are down at cash-corner looking for work and they may have stood there all day and may not have even found anything for that day," she said.

According to the most recent count, conducted last November, there are 3,200 people without homes in Calgary.

At the city's largest shelter, staff and volunteers are busy assembling care packages as the temperatures drop.

"The kits that we are trying to build right now have gloves, hats, scarves, wool socks, sunscreen and lip balm in them," said Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre spokesperson Shanika Abeysingh.

At the Mustard Seed, one of the most pressing needs is for men's pants, sizes 24 to 29.

"About 70 to 80 per cent of our guests are men and they work outside quite a lot, so we are really going through those," said Charron.

Warm coats, mitts, toques blankets, towels and clean, dry socks are also in high demand.

The Drop-In Centre offers shelter to about 1,200 people every night, the Salvation Army's Centre of Hope has accommodation for 329 men and the Mustard Seed has beds for 370 men and women.

"We have capacity for 370 at the shelter. However, if there is an emergency cold snap, we will always make sure nobody is turned away," Charron said.

"We will always make sure people aren't sleeping out in the elements."

Volunteers with Be the Change YYC, a group started by Chaz Smith, has been handing out socks, gloves, tuques and sandwiches once a week to homeless Calgarians.

"We, as a community, we just decided, you know what, we are going to go out and make a difference in these people's lives," Smith said.

With files from Elissa Carpenter