Kingston homeless population vulnerable as temperature plummets

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Kingston homeless vulnerable as temperature plummets
Organizations brace for cold and extend hours to help homeless individuals survive and stay warm when an anticipated polar vortex hits Kingston on Friday – Feb 1, 2023

This year’s first blast of extreme cold is about to descend on the region, compliments of a polar vortex.

Temperatures will plummet into the negative 20s and feel even colder with the wind chill starting Thursday.

That could lead to dangerous conditions for the city’s most vulnerable living on the streets.

“Homelessness is 24/7, and this time of year it’s cold 24/7,” says Fabio Veronez, an unhoused person in Kingston.

Homelessness is new to Veronez — he says he’s been unhoused for a week.

So far he’s used the shelter at the Integrated Care Hub to sleep, but staying warm during the day requires a lot of moving around.

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“I rode the bus for an hour this morning, just to try and stay warm until some place opened back up, to maybe get some food and then get out of the cold again,” says Veronez.

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With the thermometer expected to drop as low as -30 with the wind chill, it’s not going to get any better in the coming days.

Martha’s Table just opened a small warming centre this week.

“It could be life or death when it gets that cold outside,” says Ronda Candy, executive director for Martha’s Table.

“We shouldn’t be outside.”

Candy says the warming centre currently runs from 9 a.m. to noon, but it is expanding those hours with the cold temperatures.

“I’ve asked our co-ordinator if they’re willing to do extra hours that day,” says Candy.

“They immediately said yes because they want to support their community.”

Martha’s Table’s warming centre will now stay open to 3 p.m. for the next several days.

“We do have coats, boots, hats and scarves in abundance,” says Candy.

“So anybody that comes to the door, if they’re cold, we have warm socks and things that they can replenish their wardrobe with.”

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The city says there are shelter and drop in services available 24 hours a day, but no one location is open 24 hours a day.

That means Veronez, and others experiencing homelessness, will be walking in the cold to access them.

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