Coping with cold weather is hard when you are homeless. From coast to coast, The Salvation Army offers many services to help people during bone-chilling temperatures.
“The Salvation Army is called to serve suffering humanity,” says Andrew Wilson, emergency disaster services Coordinator for The Salvation Army Maritime Division. “That includes helping the homeless cope with extreme temperatures and low-income families who are forced to choose between buying groceries or paying for the energy bill.” Throughout the Maritimes warming rooms, soup kitchens, outreach vans, shelter beds, heating assistance programs and practical help are giving hope and dignity to those in society who have met with hard times.
Wilson, a retired armed forces veteran, lives in Halifax. Every week, from November to March, he and a group of volunteers take The Salvation Army’s Community Response Unit to the downtown core where, in cold weather, the homeless tend to congregate. Hot, well-balanced meals and beverages, warm clothes, blankets, tarp and personal hygiene items are available for the taking.
“In sub-zero temperatures our team looks for people who need shelter,” says Wilson. “You find all age groups—people sleeping on heating vents, at ATM machines and curled up with cardboard boxes wrapped around them. We do our best to protect them.”
One evening, Wilson and his team discovered a young lady, with layers of clothing, resting her head on a garbage bag that contained all her belongings. They quickly discovered she was eight months pregnant and offered to take her to a shelter. “It’s like she was waiting for us to come,” says Wilson.
“But you always wonder about the hidden,” he continues. “There’s no way to get all of them.”