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Frigid temperatures can be deadly for Edmonton’s most vulnerable

EDMONTON – Spending the night on the street can not only be tough this time of year as temperatures drop, it can be downright dangerous, even deadly.

“Last year I was underneath the Mill Creek bridge all year,” said Joshua Sager.

Sager, 32, says he’s struggled with addiction since he was 12 years old. Going from shelter to shelter, he’s spent a lot of time on the street and knows how difficult it can be during these cold winter months.

“All I had was a rug and I was in probably four feet of snow and I just had that folded over me and that was with a pair of jeans and a hoodie,” he said. “That’s how I made it through the night.”

Just a few weeks ago a homeless man passed away after spending the night on Edmonton’s streets.

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“Unfortunately, a guest of the Herb Jamieson Centre – Hope Mission’s men’s hostel – didn’t make it back to the shelter and unfortunately died due to cold exposure two blocks away from the Herb Jamieson Centre,” said Devin Komarniski, a spokesperson for Hope Mission.

Hope Mission has a 24/7 rescue van, which helps people living on the street who may be in crisis. But Komarniski says it’s a struggle to keep up with people who aren’t always in their facilities.

“It’s well known that the homeless community are back and forth between the different services and going about their business. So it’s harder to protect them when they’re out and about.”

An Edmonton man and his daughter were trying to do their part to help Sunday, by offering homemade soup and muffins to the city’s most vulnerable population outside Hope Mission.

“It feels good to do it. We’ve all had hard times, so you’ve got to remember where you come from,” said Ron Tanguay. “Once in a while, give back a little bit. It doesn’t hurt, it feels good.”

“I feel like I didn’t really understand the severity of it and then I saw it firsthand,” added his 16-year-old daughter, Courtney. “They’re so happy and thankful and they give you a hug. It’s really nice.”

Sager says he’s very grateful for people who take time out of their own lives to help those less fortunate.

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“I think they’ve got very kind hearts and they don’t judge others.”

And while he knows it’ll be tough, Sager has enrolled in a program at the the Herb Jamieson Centre.

“I just want to give myself another chance, another try.”

Since the death in mid-December shelters have changed their protocol. They now allow anyone in when the temperature drops below -15°C, even those who have been unruly or violent in the past.

With files from Cheryl Oates, Global News.

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