The weather outside will be frightful this Christmas, with Environment Canada forecasting daily high temperatures in the minus-20s over the weekend and lows dropping below minus-thirty into next week.
The cold snap has local shelter employees like Alpha House communications manager Shaundra Bruvall in overdrive, to ensure the city’s homeless population has somewhere to keep warm.
“It makes our staff certainly more vigilant and we do work hard to connect with clients to bring them into the shelter as much as possible — even if that’s only for a short period of time,” Bruvall said.
Dealing with the colder weather is also made more difficult with the Christmas season, as many places that would normally be available to provide a rest from the elements will have shortened hours or be closed all together.
“Taking a break in a Tim Hortons lobby or something like that for even an hour… makes a big difference when we’re talking about these temperatures, so it certainly does add a little bit more strain for the people we serve,” Bruvall said.
And with people spending more time indoors with family, Streets Alive Mission director of operations Cameron Kissick said there’s a greater risk of individuals in distress slipping through the cracks.
“There aren’t as many people out on the streets, so oftentimes it’s easy for people to go unnoticed,” Kissick said.
“It’s just important that the community as a whole just remember everything that’s going on and keep an eye on the safety of those people.”
The work doesn’t stop once people leave a shelter, with both Alpha House and Streets Alive Mission trying to provide proper protection for anyone spending time outdoors.
“We’re in desperate need of warm, good boots and shoes. Gloves, toques, jackets,” Kissick said. “Layerable clothing and water resistant clothing are so important because it’s more than just giving them a warm place to go it’s keeping them warm when they’re outside.”
If you see someone in trouble, the Diversion Outreach Team can be contacted for transport to Alpha House, which will continue to be open 24 hours over the holidays.