Calgary warming centres see close to 10,000 visits since Dec. 1

Click to play video: 'Calgary warming centres see nearly 10,000 visits since Dec. 1'
Calgary warming centres see nearly 10,000 visits since Dec. 1
WATCH: With an extreme cold warning blanketing the entire province, Calgary's cold weather response is in full swing to help vulnerable Calgarians access a warm place to stay. Adam MacVicar reports. – Feb 22, 2023

With Calgary in yet another deep freeze, the various warming stations established across the city have seen close to 10,000 visitors since the beginning of December.

The additional warming spaces are part of the Coordinated Community Extreme Weather Response, a partnership between the city and Calgary Homeless Foundation, in an effort to help Calgarians experiencing homelessness find refuge from the cold.

Earlier this week, the city once again activated its emergency shelter shuttle service, which provides transport from various LRT stations to shelters across the city between 9:30 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Those transports are expected to continue through Friday.

Other methods of transportation to shelters, like Alpha House’s DOAP Team, are also available during the cold snap.

The Salvation Army Mobile Warming Station also made some stops on Wednesday at the Heritage LRT station as well as Marlborough Station.

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“Calgary winter is not easy for people to survive in and we’re getting together to at least do something about it,” Salvation Army resource specialist Hooria Ansari told Global News.

The mobile warming station, which serves up to 40 people per day, is a pop-up tent with warm food and beverages, a propane heater and cold weather gear for those experiencing homelessness.

“Our intention here is to engage with folks that are currently using the train stations to stay warm. We understand there are really no supports of amenities at a train station,” Ansari said.

“We essentially go to places where the need is, support folks with a hot meal, some warm gear, or even transportation to a shelter.”

According to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, emergency shelter occupancy currently sits around 77 per cent in the city.

Officials at the Drop-In Centre said the number of people seeking their services has picked up slightly with the return of the cold, as 654 people used the 1,028-capacity shelter Tuesday night.

A spokesperson with the shelter told Global News there are roughly 375 beds available on a nightly basis.

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Click to play video: 'The Calgary Homeless Foundation offers insight into biggest barriers for city’s homeless'
The Calgary Homeless Foundation offers insight into biggest barriers for city’s homeless

There were more than 60 people at the Mustard Seed’s daytime warming centre over the noon-hour on Wednesday, many of whom either stay in a shelter overnight or are sleeping in the cold.

“They are experiencing that cold, even some frostbite or the early signs of it, and are looking to warm up, get a coffee, some food, and just a nice warm place to hang out,” Mustard Seed street-level supervisor Clinton Siebert said.

“It can be hard to see. The conditions are poor, poorer than we can probably imagine.”

Data from Alberta Health Services (AHS) revealed that there was a spike in frostbite cases impacting Calgary’s homeless population last winter.

According to AHS, there were 701 frostbite diagnoses at Calgary emergency departments and clinics in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, 65 of which required amputation.

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Siebert said while many people at the warming centre are looking for a warm meal, there have been many more seeking better clothing to deal with the colder temperatures.

“That includes lots of gloves, toques and winter jackets,” Siebert said.

“The last couple of weeks have been really warm and so now it almost seems as if they’re a little ill-prepared for this level of cold.”

The Mustard Seed also provides transportation to overnight shelters, while its daytime warming centre is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. everyday.

The City of Calgary, through its Community Safety Investment Framework, committed $2.3 million over four years to fund the coordinated winter response.

Click to play video: 'Agencies working hard to ensure vulnerable Calgarians have warm place to say amid cold snap'
Agencies working hard to ensure vulnerable Calgarians have warm place to say amid cold snap

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said there have been successes with the coordinated approach to a winter response this year by partnering with community groups and the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

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“We continue to see and evaluate how the program is working and build upon its successes,” Penner said. “I think we learned a lot from last year and we’re continuing to build upon it.”

Anyone needing somewhere to go in the cold can call or text 211 or visit And if you see someone who needs help, you can call the Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership at 403-998-7388.

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