This week’s Arctic cold snap presented a huge challenge to the homeless but local shelters were able to meet it.
Overnight low temperatures were no warmer than -14 C for seven straight days. After a mild spell the previous week, the ‘real feel’ likely felt even colder for most.
The Community Resource Centre’s Wellington St. E. warming station helped the homeless men weather the bitter temps. They are offered juice, coffee, snacks and respite from winter’s wrath. “No one is going to be in the cold,” said Mike Davies, program supervisor for Canadian Mental Health Association Algoma.
The warming station is available from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., weekdays. On weekends, the CRC’s warming station hours are shifted around the closing hours of other options, including Station Mall. Visitors are offered The CRC has 44 beds, 22 transitional and 22 low barrier shelter beds, plus one emergency bed. Davies said the shelter has been operating at max capacity since last April.
At Pauline’s Place, on Wellington St. W., the cold air created a surge in visitors. The up-to 30-bed facility, like the CRC, offers a warming station from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Executive Director Anne Penney says Pauline’s Place was able to meet demand. “When it gets cold, we get way more people,” said Penny. “They obviously can’t be on the street, it’s not a good thing. They come here and if they don’t want to stay at the shelter that’s ok. Some people who are living on the street don’t want to stay at a shelter. I respect that,” added Penny.
“But the warming station will at least keep them warm. They can sit, have a coffee, or some soup and get warm. It’s up to them, too. Not everybody wants to live in a shelter.”
Frostbite is a common threat during severely-cold temperatures. Prolonged exposure increases the risk of hypothermia.
Davies says if the CRC warming station gets more visitors than the CRC warming station can handle, people are rotated in and out. Said Davies, “We would never turn anyone away. Absolutely not.”
Penney says if Pauline’s experienced unusually high numbers, they too would not turn away those looking to escape the cold. “We would make it work,” she said.