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Blistering cold poses real danger for Edmonton’s homeless, agencies say

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Agencies that help homeless put out call for donations' Edmonton Agencies that help homeless put out call for donations
WATCH ABOVE: Edmontonians living in poverty are turning to shelters for help in the bitter cold. As Shallima Maharaj reports, most agencies are in dire need of help – Dec 11, 2016

Agencies across Edmonton have been stepping up efforts to keep shelves stocked and people warm, in the face of a blistering cold snap that has gripped the capital region for the past week.

Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society (EERSS) works hand in hand with other agencies, providing them with supplies. They also directly link the homeless and working poor with necessities.

EERSS spokesperson Nicole Geoffroy said they are most in need of items such as double layer winter jackets, snow pants, warm socks, thermal gloves and blankets. Sizing has been an issue with footwear and jackets and Geoffroy hopes with more donations, they can provide clothing to a broader spectrum of clients.

“It breaks our hearts when we have individuals come in here who are larger sizes and all we can simply give them is a warm sweater,” she told Global News.

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While some who seek assistance from EERSS call the city streets home, many are among the working poor. In fact, Geoffroy says that number rises every year.

READ MORE: Volunteers help homeless Edmontonians through cold snap

“For the winter months that are going to be carrying on here until the end of February, March… we know that we definitely do not have the supplies that we need – even having to go out and purchase supplies ourselves,” she said.

The frigid temperatures prompted the City of Edmonton to open up Edmonton Transit Services (ETS) transit centres and LRT stations overnight as of Friday so that those in need could seek refuge from the conditions outside.

According to ETS branch manager Eddie Robar, that measure is now part of the city’s cold weather protocol. Essentially when the temperature dips below minus 20 degrees celsius with the windchill, the doors to the transit spaces will be open around the clock for those needing warmth.

The Mustard Seed’s managing director Dean Kurpjuweit said the situation is dire for many.

“You and I standing outside for three or four minutes seems like a long time. Imagine sleeping in this,” he said.

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From hypothermia to frostbite, there are many potential consequences to prolonged exposure.

“In the last 12 months, we’ve seen our numbers [of clients] increase by 30 per cent. We’re the only industry where that’s really, really bad news,” Kurpjuweit said.

He also adds that they’ve been able to increase drop-in hours at the Neighbour Centre in the south end of the city.

Those looking to donate to the Mustard Seed can do so by dropping off items at the Personal Assistance Centre (PAC), located at 10568 114 Street.

Donations for EERSS can be dropped off at their facility at 10255 104 Street NW.

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