From coast to coast, blasts of extreme cold weather are causing vulnerable people, such as seniors with limited heating or people experiencing homelessness, to turn to The Salvation Army for help.
“We don’t turn anyone away when it’s this cold,” says Mark Stewart, shelter services coordinator at The Salvation Army’s Booth Centre in Winnipeg. “We open up our cafeteria, where we make a cold-room shelter, and lay mats down on the floor to ensure everyone has a place to sleep.”
In Regina, and many other locations, Salvation Army emergency homeless shelters get busier as colder weather sets in.
“We are seeing our numbers rapidly go up,” says Audrey Isaac, executive director at The Salvation Army’s Waterson Centre in Regina. “When the shelter is at full capacity, we start rolling out our emergency cold weather beds.”
At some Salvation Army centres, “warm rooms” are part of The Salvation Army’s emergency response to cold weather alerts. For instance, in Barrie, Ont., when temperatures plunge to -15 C or below with the wind chill, a cold weather emergency sign is placed in front of The Salvation Army Barrie Bayside Mission and anyone is welcome to use the centre’s warm room to escape the elements and receive other services if required.
When extreme cold sets in, Salvation Army mobile outreach vans in locations such as Ottawa and Hamilton, Ont., make sure homeless people have a warm, safe place to go.
In Ottawa, The Salvation Army outreach van provides 24-hour service when extreme cold sets in. The outreach team ensures the safety of the people it engages with, primarily through transportation to emergency shelters or medical facilities and by offering mitts, hats, jackets, boots, socks and sleeping bags.
“We expand our hours, we bring on new shifts, we buy more gas, we’re out the whole time,” says Darren Graham, director of the outreach program.
Having shelter is crucial and can be life-saving when temperatures plummet. The Salvation Army continues to offer respite and other services to ensure vulnerable people are safe and protected.