Hungry, homeless flood into Winnipeg shelters to escape cold

Winnipeg's Siloam Mission and the Salvation Army's Booth Centre are packed with people trying to escape the cold.

No one turned away from shelters when it's -15 C or colder

Siloam Mission is seeing a steep increase in the number of clients trying to escape the cold. (CBC)

Winnipeg's Siloam Mission and the Salvation Army's Booth Centre are packed with people trying to escape the cold.

"The weekend was extremely busy. We had to call in extra staff," said Mark Stewart, the Booth Centre's shelter services coordinator.

More than 75 people slept at the shelter on both Saturday and Sunday nights. Typically, it has a maximum of 45 but when the weather is –15 C or colder overnight, nobody is turned away, Stewart said.

"We put them on mats on the floor and dorm beds in a large room," he said, adding he expects to be over capacity again Monday night.

Due to the need, the shelters — Siloam, Booth Centre and Union Gospel Mission — are open round the clock for people looking for a warm place. Typically, they close for a few hours during the day for staff to clean the facilities.

At Siloam on Sunday, instead of the usual 500 clients coming in for breakfast, there were 650, said communications manager Al Foster.

If any of the shelters need to close at any time, they will first check with each other to make sure at least one is open.

"We just try to make sure that all the drop in areas, that at least one is open at all times," said Foster.

Foster also said Manitobans have responded generously and swiftly to a plea Siloam issued for warm gloves.

During the weekend, Siloam tweeted out that it was facing a shortage of gloves. By Monday, the donation supply was restored.

"Upon my last anecdotal check of the glove box in the clothing room, it was overflowing. So it looks like we were able to get through the weekend with more than enough donations," Foster said.

Long underwear is now the item in high demand, if anyone has some to donate.

Booth Centre, however, still needs gloves as well as long underwear and tuques, Stewart said.


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