How Londoners experiencing homelessness are getting through the cold snap

London is going through its first major a cold snap. Here's how two Londoners experiencing homelessness are staying warm, and how you can help.

And where you can donate to help.

Richard Kowalczyk (left) and Matthew Graham (right) layer up to stay warm on cold days. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC News)

As London is going through its first major cold snap this winter, some homeless shelters are asking for donations of winter clothing.

The clothing is put immediately to use by people living in London's shelters. 

We asked two Londoners living at the Unity Project what they're doing to stay warm.

Richard Kowalczyk

Kowalyczyk is 72 years old and has lived in London all his life. When the cold weather hits, he layers on as many items of clothing he can.

"I keep putting it on and putting it on putting it on. I don't take my pyjamas off I leave them right on. Put the long underwear on over top of them. So that when I do have to walk around I'm fairly warm," said Kowalyczyk.

On this particular day Kowalyczyk is wearing:

  • Long johns
  • Pyjamas
  • Underwear
  • Jeans
  • One undershirt
  • Two sweatshirt style tops

He gets clothing donations from the Unity Project but said it's often a "mad scramble" to stake a claim to certain items.

"There'll be one coat and six people that want it, you know? And they're not fighting for it but you've gotta be Johnny on the spot," he said.

Kowalyczyk said the layering system is effective, but often makes it hard to move. To stay warm, he's planning to stay indoors as much as possible.

Matthew Graham

Matthew Graham is 21 and has been living on the street for four years.

He said he looks forward to the cold weather.

"There's snow for when Christmas comes. I love the winter. It's cold, chilly reminds you you're alive," said Graham, noting that hot summertime weather can be harder to take.

As for how he's staying warm, Graham also uses a layering system.

"I'm wearing my steel toed boots, long johns, thermal socks, some jeans, a long sleeved DC shirt and a sweater," he said.

How you can help London's emergency shelters

Unity Project executive director Chuck Lazenby said donations are strong during December—but that the organization still could use hats, gloves and socks.

The Unity Project

The Unity Project is often flooded with donations during the Christmas season, so much so that their need is often greatest in the summer, said Charlene 'Chuck' Lazenby, executive director of the Unity Project.

However, Lazenby said gloves, hats and socks are always great to have on hand during the wintertime. These can be dropped off at their headquarters on 717 Dundas St.

Salvation Army Centre of Hope

The Salvation Army needs gloves and mitts, according executive director Nancy Powers.

Donors can drop off their hand-warmers at 281 Wellington St.

Mission Services of London

The Mission Store runs an emergency voucher program that allows Londoners in need to obtain five items of clothing every other month.

The store is running very low on children's winter clothing, and is completely out of men's coats and men's boots, said Connie Spuria, the organization's communications manager.

"We have other workers at other agencies that are coming with their clients with their voucher but I'm not in a position to fill it with men's clothes or men's boots because I don't have any," she said.

They also need more waterproof gloves.

"As soon as we're getting them, we're giving them out," she said.

The easiest place to donate these items is at the Mission Store at 797 York St.