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Service groups prepare to help Winnipeg’s vulnerable as temperatures dip

Global's Erik Pindera speaks to service workers.

As the temperature drops, the groups that serve Winnipeg’s most vulnerable are preparing to bring people in from the cold.

Siloam Mission is Winnipeg’s biggest homeless shelter, which feeds, clothes and provides basic health care to those who need it.

READ MORE: Siloam Mission expansion on track one year after breaking ground

In recent weeks the mission has seen more people seeking warm clothing or a place to sleep, said communications manager Luke Thiessen.

“Even though it’s not extremely cold, people are starting to come and ask for jackets and mitts. Most people haven’t thought about them or started donating them yet,” Thiessen said. “The shelves are pretty empty. The shelves are pretty empty — not a lot of jackets, not a lot of mitts.”

Siloam Mission has also started coordinating its weather emergency response with other shelters and service providers.

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When the temperatures dip, the waiting list for one of the shelter’s 110 beds fills up quickly — Siloam aims to get those on the list in a bed in another shelter.

Outreach workers like Tammie Kulbock, who works at Resource Assistance for Youth and is the co-chair of the Winnipeg Outreach Network, prepare for weather changes.

When the extreme cold hits, outreach workers hit the streets, providing people with transportation to shelters, with a place to warm up and resources like clothing, blankets and tents.

READ MORE: Several people lose their homes after fire under Osborne Street Bridge

In the dire cold, seeking warmth can become dangerous.

“You see a lot more people suffering from frostbite, cold-related issues and then we also see a lot of people trying to find safe places and access shelters,” Kolbuck said.

“It comes down to survival at that point,” she said, noting people seek shelter where ever they can and may light campfires to keep warm.

“You see horrible tragedies like what happened under the Osborne Bridge due to people trying to stay warm or provide themselves with some light in the darkness,” she said.

No one was injured in the fire at the camp below the bridge earlier this week, according to the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service. But at least a dozen people were left without shelter.

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