'We'll freeze to death': Homeless Edmontonians grateful for clothing donations

CBC Edmonton is launching a winter clothing drive Monday to collect donations of new socks, gloves and hats for people who are homeless in Edmonton.

CBC launches winter clothing drive for new socks, gloves and hats

Randy Legard relies on donated clothing to survive the winters in Edmonton. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

With no money and no place to call home, Randy Legard depends on donated clothes to survive the winters in Edmonton.

"They're of utmost importance to us on these streets because it's a brutal life," Legard said.

When temperatures drop below freezing, he tries to warm up in Edmonton City Centre mall or the library to get a break from the shelters.

But it's gruelling even in warmer spells when his feet get wet in the slush.

"If you get your feet cold or wet, it'll keep you chilly all day. Even inside when you're warm, you're still cold," he said.

Legard, 50, often goes to inner-city agencies to ask for new socks or gloves if his are stolen, dirty or worn out.

"Without the clothes, we'll freeze to death," he said.

With a lifelong drinking problem, no real hope of finding housing or any realistic job prospects, Legard describes winter in Edmonton as a "miserable" time.

Need for gloves, socks and tuques

CBC is launching a winter clothing drive to help ensure people like Legard are properly dressed for the weather.

CBC is asking for donations of new socks, gloves and hats to be brought to our studios downtown from Monday until Friday at Edmonton City Centre, 10062 102nd Ave.

Donations can be dropped off during these hours:

  • Monday through Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Thursday and Friday between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The clothing will be shared among the agencies working with Edmonton's homeless.

Agencies in the city are reporting a critical need for warm winter clothes.

"During the winter months, hundreds of people come to Bissell Centre every day who do not have adequate winter clothing," said the agency's Darren Brennan.

"The need is always great for warm clothing," said Shannon Hebden, drop-in manager at Boyle Street Community Services.

Already this season, the Boyle McCauley Health Centre has received several reports of frostbite. There have been no serious cases so far.

Even though the forecast looks milder this week, that's often when people get caught out.

'Frostbite's huge in the winter'

CBC News Edmonton

3 years ago
Boyle McCauley Health Centre nurse Michelle Cuelenaere describes the dangers homeless Edmontonions face in cold weather. 0:37

"That's when we start seeing a lot more [frostbite] because everything gets a little bit more wet and they also tend to lose gloves," said Michellle Cuelenaere, a nurse in the centre's wound-care clinic.

In her seven years at the centre, Cuelenaere has seen a number of people lose fingers to frostbite.

At this point in the winter, Legard has managed to steer clear of any hypothermia-related problems.

Decades on the street have given him the know-how to cope.

"You've got to layer up. I've got five jackets on now," Legard said.​