Severe temperatures have packed the city’s homeless shelters and kept outreach services working overtime this week.
Nobody has been suffering from the cold more than Ottawa’s most vulnerable, who have filled shelters here this winter.
“Pretty much every winter we have a cold spell that makes it more difficult for those who are without housing,” said Ottawa Mission spokeswoman Shirley Roy. “It’s been busier here. We’re trying to keep them inside.”
The city has been hit with a double whammy of cold weather and the OC Transpo strike, Roy said Thursday.
“Guys who depend on the bus can’t go to see employers or walk to appointments because it’s so cold,” Roy said.
John Love knows how hard it is.
The Vanier resident, who used to attend the Ottawa Mission daily for meals, hasn’t been able to get there because of the transit strike and the cold.
“I have breathing problems and right now I have pneumonia and can’t go out in anything colder than -10,” he said.
While the 220-bed shelter has been at capacity since the beginning of November, they try not to turn anyone away, said Roy.
“We’ll call over to the Salvation Army or Shepherds (of Good Hope) to see if they have any beds,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Mission has lately had daily requests for winter outerwear, including coats, mitts and toques.
The Salvation Army Community Outreach vehicle has extended its operation from the usual 16 hours per day to round-the-clock service until the cold temperatures subside, providing transportation to shelters and distributing warm clothing such as blankets, hats, mittens, footwear and coats.
“These extremely cold temperatures pose a significant risk to people on the streets for an extended period of time,” said Salvation Army spokesman Michael Maidment.
The 168-bed Salvation Army Booth Centre reached capacity this week, even after adding 15 overflow spaces. The lobby of the Booth Centre is also serving as a warming centre for the city’s homeless.