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Frigid temperatures highlight ongoing need for shelters in Halifax

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WATCH: St. Matthew's Church in downtown Halifax provides a warm place for people seeking refuge from frigid winter temperatures. As Alexa MacLean reports, with shelters pushed to capacity more are needed throughout the municipality – Dec 27, 2018

Winter is here and the early days of the season have already brought plummeting temperatures and blustery wind chill factors.

On days when temperatures are particularly frigid or there are other extreme weather factors, a community warming centre is open in downtown Halifax.

“We’ve been outside right now for about four minutes, and I can already feel one of my ears is really starting to burn, it’s so cold,” said Michelle Malette, one of the organizers at the warming centre.

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The centre’s location is at St. Matthew’s Church, the same place where the Out of the Cold Emergency Winter Shelter operates.

“When we’re going inside and we can pop somewhere to get a coffee, when we can sit in our car, when we can get on a warm bus, other folks are not always able to do that; it’s not accessible to them,” explained Malette.

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“When there’s a space that’s open like the warming centre that allows for people to come in, that allows for them to dry off, it allows for them to dry off, it allows for them to have a hot coffee or a hot tea.”

Malette says the majority of shelters in Halifax are at capacity and are typically only open as an overnight option for people to sleep.

However, the need for a warm place to escape the outdoor elements doesn’t dissipate just because the sun has risen.

“Shelters are absolutely at capacity, and Out of the Cold, at night sometimes, we have to turn people away as well. Out of the Cold is absolutely the last resort; it’s actually the only shelter that also can accept couples, and we’re the only shelter that also accepts animals,” she said.

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Malette says last winter the community warming centre was open for 26 days and so far this season it’s been open for five.

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“Please think about us for the rest of the year, right into April. We’re looking for gift cards; if you hear the warming centre is open please feel free to drop off cookies, snacks for people, fruit,” Malette said.

She adds that the environment offers a community space that provides people for a place to get warm without any judgment.

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