Edmonton agencies that serve people experiencing homelessness are running low on donations like winter coats, socks and hygiene products due to the delayed start to winter, according to representatives from Boyle Street Community Services and Hope Mission.
Because the general public didn’t have to reach for coats and toques until the snow flew on Nov. 1, they didn’t think of the vulnerable people in need of donations, said Kassidy Green at Boyle Street.
“I think the warm weather also made everyone else forget that winter will arrive and that not only does it bring challenges for everyone in the general public, but it brings specific challenges for people spending extended periods of time outside,” she said.
“I think we were all enjoying extended fall and weren’t necessarily thinking about winter even though we knew it was going to come,” said Brenton Driedger from Hope Mission.
“This week, as we’ve all been reaching for our mitts and toques and winter coats, I think we’re starting to think about that a little bit more.”
Hope Mission has 525 year-round emergency shelter spaces and is planning to add around 450 soon, bring the total to around 1,000.
“Just a couple of nights ago we had hosted just under 600 people and we’re expecting that to increase to probably about 650 by mid-November,” said Driedger, adding there will be an indoor day space at the Hope Mission that will be opening soon.
“It’s a place where people who are experiencing homelessness can come in from the cold and warm up during the day. And we also want to use that space as an opportunity to help our guests connect with other services that they might need, like nursing or housing supports, that kind of thing,” said Driedger.
On Tuesday, Boyle Street moved into what it calls its winter warming season, which runs until the end of April. They will be open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. with additional staff on site.
“We’re open for those extended hours to give people a break from the cold and being outside, and that increases access to things like a cup of coffee or a snack, as well as those gloves, toques, sweatpants, things that help keep people safe when they do have to go outside for those extended periods of time,” said Green.
Both agencies say they are always in need of donations.
“I always say, anything that you would think you might need if you were camping in winter weather is generally what our community members need at this time of year,” said Green.