Cold weather a concern for Saskatchewan's homeless

CBC News, January 18, 2015- As the temperatures plunge, people across the province are staying inside to stay warm, but for some that is not an option.

In Saskatoon, the Salvation Army men's shelter was almost at capacity this weekend and downtown, more people sought shelter overnight at the Lighthouse.

"We've just seen a lot more people coming in and looking for shelter or just looking for a place to warm up. A lot of people trying to congregate, stay in our lobby, and all those sorts of things," DeeAnn Mercier with the Lighthouse said.

"We want to make sure that we are as welcoming as possible, that we encourage people to spend the night if they need to, or we tell them we have our mobile outreach which is able to transport them to safe shelter as well."

Mercier said, in this weather, frostbite is a serious concern.

"We want to make so sure that people have a safe place to spend the night and it's not just that you need to worry about potentially freezing outdoors;  but it's also those extremities than can lead to huge health consequences," she said.

Since frostbite can lead to amputation, they try to make sure to have mitts for anyone in need so they are asking for donations from the community.

At the Salvation Army on Sunday afternoon, all but five beds were full in the men's shelter at 339 Ave. C S.

"Get off the streets. It's really not worth it," Major Malba Holliday, executive director of Salvation Army Community Services, said.

She said families and women with children could also come to the Salvation Army if they needed help, and staff would find them a warm place to sleep at another location.

If you are or know people in need of shelter during this cold snap call Mobile Crisis in Saskatoon at 306-933-6200.

In Regina, Bobby Nepinak has been staying in the Salvation Army shelter for about a month. He said that getting a bed with the colder weather will be tough because the facility is full.

"I guess it is a benefit to me, as far as staying out of the cold," he said.

"There [are] even other things here like meals and stuff. It's kind of uncomfortable sleeping together in a dorm with a bunch of guys… It's better than the alternatives in my case."

He said the hardest part about being in the cold weather is trying to stay motivated.

"When it's this cold it's very easy to become depressed and a common method of coping with depression or anything like that is substance abuse… But I'm doing my best to stay out of it," he said. "Keep a positive outlook regardless of what happens during the day.

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