Sunday , February 28 2021

Shelters preparing to increase demand as cold magic approaches

The exterior of the Inn from the Cold, an emergency shelter for families.

Jim Wells / Postmedia files

Homeless shelters in Calgary are preparing for a growing need for their services, with temperatures in the region expected to plummet in the coming days.

Kathy Christiansen, executive director of the Calgary Alpha House Society, said the agency has extra treadmills in case it needs to accommodate more people in its shelter. The organization's outreach team will also keep an eye on who needs assistance in extreme conditions.

"We were lucky not to have such a harsh winter in terms of weather," Christiansen said.

"I think a big part of caring for people when the weather is cold is that we have the contact team. Our DOAP staff (Downtown Outreach Addiction Program) will be making sure people are not out and looking for people who need some help in time and transport them to Alpha House or other places where they would be safer . "

Kevin Webb, manager of Calgary Drop-in's emergency shelter and Rehab Center, said that with any cold spell, the facility sees an increase in its numbers.

Both agencies say that during cold weather, donations of warm clothing are in high demand, including touches, jackets, scarves, snow pants and boots.

Canada's environment meteorologist Kyle Fougere said the Calgarians are in "a drastic change" from conditions seen so far this winter.

Temperatures are expected to drop during Friday and the weekend. The high expected for Saturday is -18 C, followed by -23 C for Sunday and -25 C on Monday.

"For most of next week, temperatures will be below average," Fougere said. "It warms up a bit on Wednesday, but it looks like it might be temporary. I think people should just plan below-average temperatures in the first week of February. "

Meteorological Network Meteorologist Doug Gillham said the coldest temperature the Calgarians have suffered so far this winter is -18.6 ° C, which was in December.

"You will get colder temperatures than that, so it will be a shock to the system," he said. "It's nothing dramatic by Alberta standards, it's exactly in contrast to the dominant climate pattern you've had so far."

Kara Layher, communications manager at Inn From the Cold, said that without warm clothing, the predicted temperatures are dangerous. The shelter of the agency caters to what it refers to as the invisible homeless – families who can stay with a friend or in a hotel, not on the streets. When the options run out, families often end up at Inn From the Cold, Layher said.

"Time puts a lot of pressure on families and parents in particular because it becomes unsafe to be out," she said.

She added that the new year is a challenging time for all nonprofits, including Inn From the Cold, which is seeing "a huge drop in donations" after the holiday season.

While the agency received a positive response to an emergency call for warmongers in December, she said the shelter is always in need of winter boots for adults and children.

Christiansen said that if Calgarians see someone from outside who may need help during the cold weather, they can alert the DOAP team. The outreach service can be reached at 403-998-7388.

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