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Bissell Centre in ‘dire need’ of clothing donations during Edmonton cold snap

A look at how some Edmontonians are coping with extremely cold conditions
WATCH (Jan. 15): Vinesh Pratap looks at how some Edmontonians are coping with extremely cold conditions.

An Edmonton organization that supports those struggling with poverty made a public plea for donations to help those most at risk during this extreme cold snap.

READ MORE: Extreme cold warnings in place in Alberta, wind chills of -40 expected in some regions

On Thursday, the Bissell Centre sent out a message on Twitter asking for donations. The group said it was in “dire need” of: winter boots, snow pants, long underwear and leggings.

“Knowing that we’re not going to be able to send people out with the materials they need to survive in this weather, it’s really, really heartbreaking,” Scarlet Bjornson said.

“Every day, when we see participants that we know are sleeping outside, when we see them come inside the next day, it’s just such a relief that they’ve actually made it.”

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By the end of the day Thursday, the centre’s community closet — where clients can pick up clothing — was down to just four pairs of winter boots.

“The need is great,” Bjornson said. “These are left-threatening temperatures.”

“This cold is different for people who have homes. We know we’ll be out for a minute and then back inside. But when you don’t have a home to go to, this cold really feels never ending. It feels very permanent.”

Recognizing the signs of frostbite and hypothermia
Recognizing the signs of frostbite and hypothermia

“We have set hours for our community closet but when it’s this cold, we do open it up because our participants are in dangerous situations,” Bjornson said. “We want to make sure they keep their fingers and toes intact.”

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READ MORE: City of Edmonton to close emergency overnight shelter at Commonwealth in 3 days

Much of Alberta was plunged into a deep freeze on Sunday. An extreme cold weather warning was issued by Environment Canada and has remained in place for most of the province, including Edmonton, since Sunday. Temperatures are expected to slowly rise starting Sunday.

Less than 24 hours after the first message, the Bissell Centre posted an update: 90 blankets had been donated by a local company.

“We’re asking for snow pants, winter boots, thermal underwear, leggings, anything wool — anything that will keep you warm. If it keeps you warm, it’ll keep our participants warm.”

Most Edmonton shelters full overnight at cold snap hits
Most Edmonton shelters full overnight at cold snap hits