Edmonton’s cold snap impacts most vulnerable population

Watch above: The province is in the throes of its first winter-like blast. It’s not just wreaking havoc on the roads, it’s also affecting the city’s most vulnerable. Eric Szeto has more on how they’re coping.

EDMONTON — With the first cold snap of the season on the way into the Capital Region, spending any amount of time outdoors can be unbearable. But what would you do if you didn’t have anywhere to go to escape the cold?

“I don’t have a place to call home,” said Lorie Gladue. “I’ve been on the streets for three winters now.”

Gladue says he usually walks around or sits near building vents to try to keep warm, but when it gets really cold, neither of those strategies keep him warm.

Deanna Winterburn and her boyfriend were forced to sleep outside Saturday night after a shelter turned them away because it was full.

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“We try to find spaces that are dry, no snow,” said Winterburn. “We used our blankets but we were still both shaking all night long.”

Going without shelter is a reality for thousands of Edmontonians. Two years ago, Edmonton’s homeless population was pegged at 2,174. The results of the city’s most recent count are expected to be released before the end of the year.

READ MORE: 2014 homeless count begins in Edmonton

The last two counts revealed decreases from the highest number counted: 3,079 in 2008. However, Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust, says it’s too soon to say if the 2014 count will show another decrease.

“The numbers in the homeless count could go either way,” McGee said in October. “But the work that has happened has proven that housing first works. We’ve housed, of those 3,200, mostly chronically homeless individuals, and people that I think, standing back six years ago, many in the community would have said weren’t ‘house-able.’ And they’re doing very well in their housing.”

READ MORE: Progress made, but much work remains to end homelessness in Edmonton

“It’s really scary for people that have to sleep outside at night,” said Helen Herbert, who was able to sleep at the George Spady Centre Saturday night.

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“Standing outside at night, it gets really cold.”

Early Sunday morning, a homeless man with severe frostbite to his fingers and toes had to be taken to hospital after sleeping outdoors.

Watch below: Nicola Crosbie’s seven-day forecast

With files from Eric Szeto, Global News.