For people who live on the streets, extreme cold weather can be a matter of life or death. As bone-chilling temperatures sweep over the nation, Salvation Army emergency measures are in place, with the goal of keeping street people warm and alive.
Shelter on Wheels
In Chilliwack, B.C., a new option is available to those seeking shelter from the cold. It is a former shipping container that was remodelled to provide accommodation for up to 16 people.
The 40-foot container, with eight small, insulated cabins, compliments the existing shelter services provided by The Salvation Army’s Care and Share Centre.
New Emergency Weather Shelter
In Campbell River, B.C. the EMS, which opened on November 16, 2010, provides guests with two meals, shower and laundry facilities, and a warm, safe place to sleep.
Housed at The Salvation Army Lighthouse, this service provides shelter for up to 15 people during extreme weather. This is in addition to the existing emergency shelter.
Cold Weather Policies
Salvation Army shelters ensure that additional space is available and additional services are offered in extreme cold alerts.
At the Army’s Winnipeg Booth Centre, a Cold Weather Policy is implemented when the temperature plummets to -20 C, including the wind chill. The centre works with other shelter providers and when all the shelters are full, the Army opens its large dining room where additional mats, blankets and pillows are provided.
For the past three winters the policy has been implemented hundreds of times. Those staying overnight are also provided a hot breakfast in the morning.
Partnerships with Other Service Providers
Many Salvation Army Centres work with city police and other service providers during cold weather alerts. In Saskatoon police bring people who don’t have shelter or who have been found in shelter that isn’t suitable for the weather conditions to the Army’s community centre where they are provided with a warm, safe place to sleep.
In addition, outside the city limits, local RCMP pick up hitchhikers who want relief from the elements. They are taken to the Army’s shelter where they are offered blankets and warm clothing such as mitts, toques, scarves, and socks.
When the centre runs out of space, clients are housed in local hotels.
Warming rooms are set up in Salvation Army centres for people on the street trying to find relief from the bitter cold.
The Salvation Army Edmonton Crossroads Community Church is situated in a neighbourhood where there is a high incidence of prostitution, illegal drug exchange and gang activity. The church operates a daytime drop-in program during the week, which serves as a warming centre during the winter. Here relationships are built and respite offered. A community health nurse visits weekly to change bandages, give flu shots and provide general care.
In Toronto’s downtown core, Salvation Army outreach teams check on the vulnerable to make sure they are safe from the extreme elements with the hopes of convincing them to take advantage of a warm, safe place to stay. But, despite the Army’s best efforts, some people choose to remain outside in frigid temperatures. Those who refuse shelter service are offered blankets and warm clothing.
About The Salvation Army
Every day, The Salvation Army works in more than 400 local communities to deliver primary care services to the poor and homeless, The Salvation Army provides 6,370 shelter beds, one-quarter of all the shelter beds in Canada, for the homeless each night through a national network of 52 shelters and hostels.