Homeless support anticipation of increased demand during Calgary cold snap – Calgary

As the weather turns bitterly cold in Calgary, homeless advocates and those serving the city’s vulnerable population are concerned about the effects of staying outdoors in minus -20C weather.

“As soon as these temperatures drop, especially temperatures below -10, -15, start to set in, just being still for a few minutes and not getting your blood flowing can lead to frostbite within minutes. “, said Chris, supervisor of the Drop-In Center program. Kavanagh said. « It can lead to massive problems, including very serious amputations and infections. »

Kavanagh remembers seeing a man whose time on the streets in cold weather had a number of consequences.

« It was an image that will probably stick in my head forever, » he said.

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“There was a gentleman who had had a number of toes amputated and was in really bad pain and was constantly being monitored for infection. And that’s something that really impacts our staff because it will affect that person’s quality of life forever.

Daily low temperatures are expected to drop below -20 all week. Friday’s mercury is expected to reach -25°C. With the wind chill, conditions could be even colder.

“We are anticipating a need, especially for winter clothing, like we have never seen before, as we have many refugees and newcomers who are struggling and are going to experience their very first winter here. And demand for our apparel program has skyrocketed over the past few months,” Kavanagh said.

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The Drop-In isn’t the only organization in town trying to get cold weather gear to those in need.

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Project Warmth’s Gordy Hoffman said he’s seen a yearly increase in requests for items he distributes « especially now with inflation and with the refugee situation and just with unemployment and everything – it’s a bit the mess over there.

“That’s what we’re here for. We are just overwhelmed.

Hoffman said his organization, which distributes items like clothing and sleeping bags, sees demand year-round. And despite the increased demand, he is determined to meet the demand.

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“We’re just going to keep doing it and doing it and getting it to get enough. We have never lacked it for over 20 years.

Warm clothes aren’t the only comfort the homeless in Calgary have. The Calgary Homeless Foundation operates a number of warming centers across the city. The centers provide a place to warm up, socialize, grab a snack, and seek other services during the day.

« We have this wide variety of partners and volunteers who are amazing and work with vulnerable people to support them, to get what they need, » said foundation president Patricia Jones.

“Ultimately, our goal is to get people into housing or accessing services so they can eventually have a home and the supports they need to thrive. And whether that means mental health and addictions supports, medical supports, psychiatric supports, they have a choice. »

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Be The Change YYC’s Chaz Smith said he saw some of his organization’s customers elsewhere in the winter, trying to stay warm.

« I was just at the mall the other day. I saw a lot of people who I recognized inside the mall, » he said. , in stores, Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, on buses all day.

« So we know there are a lot of warming spaces during the day. »

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But Smith said the people he and his team work with on the street often have barriers to accessing other services, due to feelings of being unsafe as a minority by nature of gender, race or sexual orientation, or even having pets they don’t have. want to give up.

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« We need to continue the conversations about why people don’t have access or can’t access emergency shelters because they are reception points, » he said.

Jones said shelters around the city are about 75% capacity. As of December 1, 200 additional places will be added to the existing 135. She said the homeless foundation was monitored daily by partners including police, regulation, transit and 911.

“We would never wait until December 1 to activate if there was a need before December 1. We’re just extending December 1 to make sure that between December and March, when we typically have our coldest months, we have enough support for community members,” Jones said.

Smith wants to see the conversation expand beyond temporary shelters, citing an affordable housing statistic released by Scotiabank in early 2022.

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“We actually ranked among the worst performers of all G7 countries,” he said.

“We actually have a supply and demand problem when it comes to housing: we have more demand than supply.

« And I think in this conversation we need to keep talking about it because the province and the federal government have a responsibility to provide housing because in Canada it’s a human right. »

Anyone who needs a place to go in the cold can call or text 211 or visit ab.211.ca. And if you see someone who needs help, you can call the Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership at 403-998-7388.

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