Calgary

Frigid Calgary weather has street outreach team scrambling to get people warm

School officials and agencies that help the homeless are both taking steps to prevent any tragedies as Calgary experiences its coldest winter weather in two years.

Cold snap could last for up to two weeks

In the very cold weather, the DOAP Team sometimes has to keep people in its outreach van just to keep them warm. (Alpha House Society )

School officials and agencies that help the homeless are both taking steps to prevent any tragedies as Calgary experiences its coldest winter weather in two years.

After mild winters last year and the year before, this week's plunge to overnight lows as frigid as –27 C prompted the Calgary Catholic School District to remind parents to make sure their children are dressed warmly as they wait for buses. The Calgary Board of Education has a similar reminder to parents on its website. 

"All students should be well prepared for conditions caused by low temperatures and high wind chills and should not be left unattended at bus stops or spend any extended period of time outdoors under any circumstance," the board said in a release. 

"Cold weather or heavy snowfalls can result in bus schedules being unavoidably delayed."

Whenever the temperature drops lower than –18 C, including wind chill, the Catholic board keeps students indoors during lunch hours and recesses.

The Calgary Alpha House Society's outreach team is also taking extra precautions during the cold snap.

"It definitely makes things more challenging and just trying to figure out where to take people and get them a safe spot for the night," said Danielle Minns, who works with the Downtown Addictions Outreach Program, or DOAP team.

The mobile team works to get people struggling with addictions off the streets and connected with a range of programs.

When temperatures dip below –10 C the DOAP team is often stretched thin, especially since the shelters fill up quickly, Minns says.

"A lot of times we'll end up having to mobile shelter them in a van. Just keep them in the back, let them sleep, just to prevent them from being outside," said outreach worker Teigen Welkert.

The DOAP team usually ends up doing about 50 transports per day during the winter.

David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said this week's temperatures will be colder than anything Calgary saw over the past two years, and the cold snap could last for up to two weeks. 

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