Salvation Army Warm Rooms Help the Homeless in Frigid Temperatures

by John McAlister
Categories: Feature
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Winter weather is no joke. According to Environment Canada, bitter cold and winter storms kill more than 100 people in Canada every year. That is greater than the number of Canadians killed by tornadoes, thunderstorms, lightning, floods, and hurricanes combined.

Across Canada, when temperatures plummet, Salvation Army centres offer those who have met with hard times warmth, suitable winter gear and a safe place to sleep. With the slumping economy The Salvation Army has seen an increase in demand for these services. Captain Robert Burrell, director of community and family services in Belleville says: “Thanks to recent charitable donations, The Salvation Army is able to manage the additional demand. In January 2009, the Warm Room provided meals to 826 individuals while, in January 2010, 1,080 people used the program.”

In Barrie, when temperatures plunge to -15 C with the wind chill, a cold weather emergency sign is placed in front of The Salvation Army Barrie Bayside Mission, located in the downtown core. The city’s homeless are invited to use the centre’s warm room to escape the elements and receive other services if required.

“The warm room is part of The Salvation Army’s emergency response to cold weather alerts,” says Executive Director, Major Roy Randell. . “If school kids can’t go out (for recess), we have an agreement with the city that we’re open.”

“Visitors to the warm room are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, but the service is offered to anyone,” continues Randell. “Lately it’s been very cold and the warm room lets people thaw out, visit, play board games or read the paper.”

The warm room is actually the dining room in this centre that has an on-site thrift store, soup kitchen and men’s shelter. Other community and family services are also offered. The centre is open seven days a week and offers a hot meal at noon and 6 p.m. to those in need.

“For the past two years the shelter’s 20 dorm and 12 private rooms have been pretty full all winter,” says Randell. “In extreme temperatures, if we’re full, it’s our responsibility to find people a place to go.”