January 11, 2018 9:56 pm

Cold weather hits Lethbridge shelter hard

WATCH: Another bout of intensely cold weather is hitting those most vulnerable in Lethbridge the hardest. Malika Karim reports.

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Another bout of intensely cold weather is hitting those most vulnerable in Lethbridge the hardest.

“We’ve had the highest numbers we’ve had in over seven years, so we’re nearing capacity just about every night,” James Kanarofki, diversion liaison at the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre, said.

This has been one of the busiest winters for the Lethbridge shelter, with occupancy almost reaching the 111-person capacity.

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READ MORE: What winter is like on the streets of Lethbridge for one homeless man

“When it got warm, numbers dropped. When it got cold they picked up,” Kanarofki said.

“People come in from out of town as well. We’re very close to Blood Reserve, so we have a lot of people that come into town for a little while and they stay with us, and when it’s cold they don’t always have an option to get back to where they’re going.”

Students in the University of Lethbridge’s Addictions Counseling Studies program are currently interning at the Lethbridge shelter and have seen the recent increase in numbers.

“When we did start, it was warmer weather… so we didn’t see as many people. But as time has gone on, it’s been kind of insane since Christmas started,” Iris Aceituno said.

The cold snap over Christmas was extreme, officials said, but the need for more resources is even more pronounced now.

“A lot of our clients were home for the holidays, they were with family, they were with friends, they weren’t wandering the streets — so if it was going to hit -52 C, that was probably the best time it could have happened,” Marie McLennon with Streets Alive said.

READ MORE: Lethbridge residents adapt to changing weather

Officials at the shelter say they haven’t had to turn anyone away yet, but it’s a scenario they’ll need to look into.

“That’s something that we’d need to talk to the executive director about,” Kanarofki said. “When that happens, that’s something that’s going to have to be addressed soon because it doesn’t look like the weather is going to let up.”

The shelter isn’t only low on space — organizations are also reminding residents of the need for winter gear, hoping donations will continue to come in.

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