Manitoba

Winnipeg charities band together to provide pop-up shelter on extremely cold night

Staff at a Winnipeg shelter were getting ready to open their doors on Saturday night when the heat failed, but thanks to some teamwork with community organizations in the city, a pop-up shelter was opened an hour later.

30 people stayed in the Salvation Army chapel after heat broke down at 1JustCity's emergency warming shelter

Tessa Whitecloud says that without the collaboration of community groups in Winnipeg, 30 people may have had to spend the night in the cold on Saturday, and could have died. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Staff at a Winnipeg shelter were getting ready to open their doors on Saturday night when the heat failed, but thanks to some teamwork with community organizations in the city, a pop-up shelter was opened an hour later.

Tessa Whitecloud, the executive director of 1JustCity, said that without the collaboration, more than two dozen people could have been outdoors on a night when the entire province is under an extreme cold warning.

"People tonight would have died without all of this collaboration. Thirty people is a lot of people to be outside tonight," she said.

Whitecloud said the emergency warming shelter at 109 Pulford St. is undergoing renovations. During this time, the building is more open than it normally is and the heat was working overtime in the frigid cold to keep the temperature up.

That's when it failed.

Whitecloud said she was immediately concerned for the people who were hoping to stay in the shelter.

"We had to figure out a way for people to be warm. And where was I going to ... pull that teamwork from?  And right away, of course, it was the other shelters in Winnipeg because we collaborate so frequently," she said.

Within an hour, something amazing happened.

The Salvation Army offered up its chapel so all 30 people would have a warm, safe place to sleep, and Spence Neighbourhood Association and Main Street Project stepped in and provided transport vans to help bring people there so they wouldn't have to walk on such a cold night. 

The Spence Neighbourhood Association was one of the organizations that pitched in on Saturday to make sure people had a way to get to the pop-up shelter. (Submitted by Tessa Whitecloud)

Whitecloud said the heat will be back up and running at the Pulford Street site on Sunday night.

She said she's grateful for the network of community organizations that support one another during extraordinary circumstances like this.

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