The grip of addiction has such a stranglehold on a population of the city’s homeless that many choose to endure sub-zero temperatures rather than give up their fix for the night, officials say.
With record-breaking temperatures dropping below -30 C this week, the number of vacant beds at the Hope Mission is surprisingly high, spokesman Peter Gerber said yesterday. “People have to come in of their own volition — they have to want to come in from the cold,” he said. “They’re not allowed to abuse substances inside our facility. If that’s their intention, they’re still out there.”
Of 900 beds, roughly 600 have been taken up each night this week. There are more than 3,000 homeless people in Edmonton.
“You’ll see people camped outside the building sometimes, and it’s not because we’re full,” Gerber said.
“If they want to live in their addiction, they’re going to be out there trying to maintain it.”
A homeless Calgary man froze to death in a park last weekend.
EMS spokesperson Jill McCormick said that emergency crews didn’t respond to any cold exposure calls yesterday.