The frigid temperatures are keeping local shelters and drop in centres much busier than usual.
One shelter is already over capacity and demand for a warm place to stay remains high. Volunteer with the St. Vincent De Paul Society (SVDP), Livingstone “Sonny” Stephens knows all too well, the struggle of living outside in the cold. He says it’s more than just a physical battle with the elements. “You see sadness, a lot of sadness and hurt, depression, a lot of depression I’ve noticed.”
With the lunch rush much busier than most days at SVDP, Stephens says the cold weather brings in many new faces. “Some of them are from here and some from I do believe Alberta that are coming over this way now, I’ve seen a lot.”
The Bridget Moran Shelter is also feeling the pinch. Executive Director of Active Support Against Poverty, Audrey Schwartz said beds are starting to become a hot commodity. “The demand is high, last night (Sunday) we had 53 people in and that’s 13 over capacity cause we have 40 beds currently.”
Stephens agrees that the shelters always seem to be at an overflow whenever temperatures drop below zero. “What they need around here is another shelter, one or two more at least cause there’s more people out there who have been homeless.”
This year’s Extreme Weather Protocol was put into place in October which is one month earlier than normal. Although, Schwartz believes that to be good news, especially at a time like this. “The Extreme Weather Protocol allows us to have extra beds and extra staffing and when you have that many people in, you have to have extra staffing to assist those people with their basic needs.”
Those basic necessities include winter clothing for adults to keep warm as Schwartz said the shelter will do everything it can to take in as many people as possible. “We will accommodate until we can no longer have a piece of floor left and we also work very closely with the other shelters in town to ensure that everybody has a place to be.”
For now, those in need come together to share a meal. Stephens said that the community will continue to show its support in a deep freeze. “They’re not alone, I know what it’s like, they’re not alone.”