Emergency services 'very busy' when extreme cold weather alerts issued

The Homelessness Network of Sudbury has already issued four "cold weather alerts" this winter. The emergency response for social services goes into effect when the temperature falls below –15 C, or –20 C with the wind chill.

Homelessness Network coordinator says those accessing shelters, mission are well known to workers

The Homelessness Network of Greater Sudbury issues Cold Weather Alerts when the temperature falls below –15 C or –20 C with the windchill. This means extra emergency services are available to the vulnerable in the city.

As the temperature dips below –15 C this week, the Homelessness Network of Sudbury is trying to make sure the most vulnerable people in the city keep warm.

For the fourth time this winter, a 24-hour "extreme cold weather alert" was issued on Tuesday. That happens when the temperature falls below –15 C or –20 C with the wind chill.

When these alerts are in place, extra space is made available overnight in local shelters. That includes the Salvation Army's men's shelter on Larch Street, Cedar Place for women and children, and l'Association des jeunes de le rue for youth on Cedar Street.

The Elgin Street Mission also stays open for 24 hours to act as an emergency warming station.

"All the shelters and the Off the Street emergency shelter are very busy," said Raymond Landry, the coordinator of the Homelessness Network in Sudbury.

"We know that the need is there, and that we're addressing an important need. Many persons are using the service on a regular basis."

Raymond Landry is the coordinator for the Homelessness Network in Greater Sudbury. He says the city has issued four Cold Weather alerts so far this winter, including its first ever issued in late November. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Under a Cold Weather Alert, people who don't have proper heat in their homes and apartments are also eligible for these emergency services.

Landry is unsure how many people are in that particular situation, but said many who access shelters and emergency services are known to social service workers. 

"Most of the persons we see on a regular basis are well known to the services that assist those living in poverty or are street-entrenched."

Hotline for cold nights

There is also a phone hotline for those who need outreach services. 

"People can call anytime of the night if they're stuck out there and need a ride somewhere, or just to get between places in an urgent kind of manner because it's too cold to walk," Landry says.

He explains there is a van and outreach workers from L'Association des jeunes de la rue will respond as soon as there is a call.

The outreach workers are equipped with extra clothing, blankets and coffee for those who choose not to access shelters.

The outreach hotline is also available if concerned citizens want to call about someone they may have seen out in the cold and needs help.

The number is (705) 675-6422.

Landry says the level of poverty and the number of people having trouble finding housing and staying housed is a big issue in Sudbury. But,  he said the programs and services in place are helping to meet a need, for the most part.

"[The Homelessness Network] invites anybody who might be suffering from the cold to seek shelter and find refuge in a warm place."

With files from Angela Gemmill