Manitoba

Hot weather prompts bottled water, sunscreen calls at Winnipeg homeless shelters

As the temperatures rise, so do the risks of sunstroke among Winnipeg's homeless population, prompting homeless shelters to ask for weather-specific donations.

Siloam Mission says some clients suffering from heatstroke symptoms

Winnipeg's homeless shelters are in need of bottled water along with sunscreen, summer clothing and fresh fruit and vegetables. (CBC)

As the temperatures rise, so do the risks of sunstroke among Winnipeg's homeless population.

Staff at Siloam Mission, Winnipeg's largest homeless shelter, said they are going through more water than usual and asked for donations of water bottles, sunscreen and clothing that will help people stay hydrated and healthy. 

"[We are] going through more water than what is a normal demand for us," said Kathi Neal, director of development for Siloam Mission. "We usually go through about one pallet of water per week, but we're going through that easily and then some.

"What we look for at this time of year are donations of sunscreen, hats. Shorts would be very appreciated so that people can be dressed for the weather."

People are coming in with heat-related health problems and it's putting more pressure than usual on the shelter, Neal said. 

"We're dealing with a lot of people who have signs of heat stroke," she said. "We do have the Saul Sair Health Centre, so we certainly bring them into our mission and care for them right away.

"For people who are living in extreme poverty or don't have a home, of course they're very exposed to the elements throughout the day. And while there's certainly places to go within our community so they can get out of the sun, it's very important that we keep them hydrated, so we're really looking for donations of bottled water."

The shelter prepared for the weather by issuing an urgent call for water last week, Neal said, and several water companies and Winnipeggers opened their taps. However, they still need more, and the shelter is packed to capacity nightly.

"The shelter is always busy and I can tell you, it's challenging right now," said Neal. "We do have a 110-bed emergency shelter and that's full every night. Unfortunately we often have to turn people away because we just don't have the space. But we work very collaboratively with the other missions in the neighbourhood and our goal is to make sure that everyone has a safe place to sleep."

In addition to hats, water and suncreen, summer clothing donations are also needed. 

"We try to help our people to make sure they're dressed appropriately for the weather, if they're wearing too much clothing or long sleeves, that kind of thing. We really try to get them into our clothing room and provide them with summer clothing,"

We're dealing with a lot of people who have signs of heat stroke. We do have the Saul Sair Health Centre so we certainly bring them into our mission and care for them right away- Kathi Neal, Siloam Mission

Running shoes are needed throughout the year, Neal said. 

Siloam would also appreciate donations of fresh fruit and vegetables to make lighter meals for clients. 

Staff at the Salvation Army's Booth Centre echoed Siloam when asked about their needs. 

Residential manager Mark Stewart said they are letting people into their air-conditioned rooms as needed, and handing out water and juice.

In addition, their emergency response vehicle is out on the streets nightly, handing out water and soup.

"So any extra supplies are always appreciated," said Stewart.

Winnipeggers who suspect a homeless person is suffering from heatstroke should, if the person is comfortable, direct them to the mission, or call 911 if someone is in medical distress, said Neal. 

People interested in dropping off donations of water, clothing or sunscreen can do so at Siloam Mission at 300 Princess St. from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., or any time at the Salvation Army's Booth Centre at 180 Henry St. 

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