by Lauren O’Neil
An extreme cold weather system like the one blasting much of Canada this week can spell inconvenience for many. Commutes get messy, schools may close, cars won’t start, and in some cases, it’s impossible evento leave the house.
But for those without a place to live, extreme cold weather is more than uncomfortable. In fact, it can downright deadly.
According to Environment Canada, more than 80 people die each year from over-exposure to the cold, and the homeless are particularly at risk.
Thirty-four people froze to death last year on the streets of Toronto alone, according to Doug Johnson-Hatlem, a street pastor with Sanctuary Ministries, and last month the community of Prince Albert, Sask. was rocked by the story of a 49-year-old homeless man who died after being asked to leave a business he was trying to warm up in.
While shelters are available (though sometimes overcrowded) in most cities, many homeless are unwilling to come out of the cold no matter how hard the wind blows or how dangerously low the temperature drops.
In this week’s episode of CBC Live Online, we chatted with experts about why this problem persists, what’s being done already to combat it, and what steps can be taken in the future to see that more vulnerable Canadians are protected from freezing to death.
Our special guests included:
Anne-Marie Batten: Street Health Toronto crisis nurse and member of Project Winter Survival, bringing additional aid to those without homes who face the elements.
Captain Les Marshall: Public Relations and Development Director for The Salvation Army in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Northwest Ontario.
Louise Gallagher: Longtime volunteer at Canada’s largest homeless shelter in Calgary. Works to help shift the perception of homelessness in our country.
Irene Jaakson: Vancouver Extreme Weather Response Coordinator, Greater Vancouver Shelter Strategy.