Helping people without homes in Calgary this coming winter
Riggs Zyrille Vergara, Publishing Editor
On any given night in Calgary, there are around 2,000 people experiencing homelessness according to the Calgary Drop-in Centre. With colder-than-normal winters coming up, many shelters and centres around the city are preparing to aid people without homes. But with the need for more funding for these organizations, everyday Calgarians might be able to lend a hand.
Last December 2021, many people experiencing homelessness have opted to take shelter in train stations to survive the bitter cold that went up to around -24°C with added windchill, according to a report from the Calgary Homeless Foundation. According to their impact report, this continued until March 2022 where there were around 20 nights with temperatures around below -20°C. With those temperature levels, and even with just a bit of wind, frostbite is possible within 30 minutes.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac’s extended winter weather forecast for 2022-23, the Prairie Provinces including Alberta “will be hit the hardest this year with tons of snow in both January and February.” Canadians should also expect one of the coldest arctic outbreaks in recent years during the month of January which will also greatly affect the Rockies and the Prairies. January will be seen with a potential of heavy snows and a sweep of bitter cold air, prompting a winter storm warning.
But even on March 2023, which is supposed to be the start of spring, the Farmer’s Almanac forecast is expecting a “lion-like end to March with a wide-variety of weather ranging from heavy snows to torrents of rain to gusty thunderstorms and stormy weather across much of the nation.”
There are many shelters and organizations prepared to help the homeless population of Calgary especially during the harsh winter months, but as with any non-profit organization, they can always benefit from the generous help of everyday Calgary residents through donations and volunteering.
BeTheChangeYYC, a grassroots initiative which started in 2015 that became a nonprofit in 2018, provides tangible essentials to people experiencing homelessness on the streets and back alleys of Calgary. They are in need of bottled water, juice, meal replacements such as Boost or Ensure, vitamin packets, tarps, tents, jackets, socks, hygiene products, gloves, toques, scarves and hand/feet warmers.
A volunteer-driven non-profit charity called The Sandwich Foundation, provides healthy lunches to individuals and families struggling with homelessness. Through the generous contributions of volunteers, various groups and people who donate, they are able to produce and distribute approximately 8,000 sandwiches per week. A donation of $2 to their organization is able to feed one individual in need with a healthy lunch.
The Calgary Drop-in Centre located downtown, an emergency shelter which also provides health services and housing support to people experiencing homelessness is also accepting volunteers and donations. Geared towards the winter months, they have the Kindness Kit initiative where people can put together specific packages containing essentials that will be given directly to people in need. Calgarians can make the “Frosty Bite Kit” that includes new items for the winter such as gloves, toques, scarves, wool socks, hand cream, lip balm and pocket warmers.
If people want to donate in the spirit of Christmas, the drop-in centre also has the Fill-a-Sock initiative where through Calgarian’s donations, people in need will receive a stocking on Christmas morning. Items mentioned in the winter kit should be donated but other donations can be other essential items such as travel mugs, throat lozenges, chocolate and candies, Calgary Transit tickets, travel size toiletries, mini toothbrush and toothpaste, $10 Tim Horton’s gift cards and cloth face masks.
The City of Calgary has been implementing the “Coordinated Community Winter Response” in partnership with many shelters and centres in the city, where they aim to create more warming spaces through existing infrastructure, reduce barriers to access shelters and distribute winter essentials through a centralized supply hub.
But as the city’s homeless population continues to grow and the challenges they face continue to worsen, there’s only so much that can be done. There are many vulnerable groups in our city that need a helping hand, and the only way for Calgary to grow as a resilient city is when we uplift and empower our most vulnerable.