Winnipeg homeless shelters packed as mercury plummets

Winnipeg's Siloam Mission had to turn people away last night as the temperature plummeted. All 110 beds were full and 15 people were sent to other shelters. The Salvation Army put out between 40 and 50 extra mats so people could sleep inside.

Windchills hovering in the mid -40's has homeless shelters hopping

CBC videographer Brett Purdy visits Siloam Mission in Winnipeg to see how clients, staff and volunteers are coping with bitterly cold temperatures. 1:52

Bitterly cold weather has Winnipeg's homeless shelters packed.

"We had a 110 people in and we turned 15 people away to likely the Salvation Army last night," Siloam Mission executive director Floyd Perras said.

"That's pretty typical for us throughout the winter that we are having to work with the other shelters and the Salvation Army does open up 40 or 50 mats on the floor for people who get turned away because you just can't turn away people in the -40 weather," Perras said.

People wait outside of Siloam Mission on Princess Street. (Brett Purdy/CBC)
On extreme cold days, Siloam opens its drop-in centre early, at 6:30 a.m., so people from other shelters have somewhere to go when they close.

Siloam is in desperate need of warm winter items including mitts, scarves, socks and underwear. 

Winter boots are also in high demand.

"They wear their boots basically inside, outside, and so they get pretty sweaty and pretty saturated and need a change at least every couple of months," Perras said.

It's been a difficult winter for Winnipeg's homeless. 

In the first week in January, the shelter had people coming in with bad cases of frostbite.

"We've had some very significant tragedy this year too. We had several people with severe frostbite and one individual has lost both their feet and some of their fingers," Perras said

Siloam is also looking for donations of coffee and tea to help keep people warm.

The frigid temperatures are expected to last into the weekend.


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