Watch above: If you see someone on the street struggling this winter, how can help? Emily Mertz has the details.
EDMONTON – The Capital Region is in the middle of a bitter cold snap, which puts the most vulnerable citizens at risk.
A group of local organizations wants to make sure people know what to do if they see someone in distress this winter.
It’s as easy as calling 211.
“There’s a person on the other end of the line 24/7 and they will ask you a few questions to assess the situation,” explained Devin Komarniski with the Bissell Centre.
“They want to make sure that they’re sending out the right people. If it is a life-threatening situation, they may dispatch EPS and EMS. If somebody just seems like they need to get out of the cold, get warm and be safe, then they will dispatch Bissell’s Mobile Assistance Program.”
The Mobile Assistance Program (also known as MAP) is run by the Bissell Centre, Reach, Homeward Trust, The Support Network, with the help of police and paramedics.
“They’ll go out and they’ll provide warm clothing on the street for those who don’t want to come to a shelter, but then when they find somebody who is in dire need of help, they will transport them back to the Bissell Centre drop in or to the other overnight shelters elsewhere,” said Komarniski.
People can alert staff to someone in trouble on the streets by calling 211. That option has been in place since MAP started in 2013, but some people still aren’t aware of the service.
“I find it surprising how many people are hearing this for the first time,” said Komarniski, adding that’s why the social agencies came up with the #JustCall211 social media awareness campaign.
“We started planning in the summer, knowing that the winter is coming up.
“We really want to empower every Edmontonian to know what to do when they see someone in need.
“It’s a real sinking feeling when you see a homeless person in need but you have no idea what to do or who to call. We’re just asking people to just call 211.”
The MAP team will respond to the immediate needs of the person in distress and also connect them with follow-up resources, like housing support.
“The response we’re getting online is ‘I didn’t know about this. I’m going to use this and I’m going to share about it with my friends and family,'” said Komarniski.
“People – now that they’re informed – they want to utilize the service and they want to care for the people in need in their community.”
In October, the MAP team responded to 288 crisis calls.