Homeless at risk in frigid cold
Published Monday, January 21, 2013 10:17PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 21, 2013 10:20PM EST
On frigid nights like these, the homeless shelters take special measures to ensure no one is left out in the cold.
With the wind chill, Monday night will feel like minus 32 Celsius – a night that’s just too cold to spend outside.
Organizations that work with the homeless say they are glad the government funded 35 more beds this winter in Montreal shelters, bringing the total available beds up to about 700.
The estimate of Montreal's homeless population ranges in the thousands. Bringing them inside can be a life-or-death decision. On a winter night in 2008, a homeless man was found dead in Viger Park.
St-Michael's Mission in downtown Montreal had hot coffee, chicken pie and vegetable soup Monday.
While it normally closes at night, the mission will be open overnight Monday, letting about 50 people stay inside.
“They'll play cards, they'll do artwork, they'll listen to music,” said George Greene of the mission, where there are no beds, but people will find a way sleep where they can.
At the Welcome Hall Mission, there are 240 beds but it will squeeze another 35 in the cafeteria Monday, before the homeless head back out into the cold.
“We give them toques, we give them scarves, mittens,” said Cyril Morgan of the Welcome Hall Mission. “We make sure that their socks are dry and clean.”
One man told CTV’s Max Harrold that he lost his apartment last summer, but now he has a temporary bed at the mission because he volunteers there
“I'm very, very thankful. It took a little time but when it kicks in, you're glad, you have a place to sleep, a meal to eat and shower,” he said.
On cold days, police are a little more tolerant of the homeless in metro stations, said Const. Simon Delorme of the Montreal police.
“At night time, it's another thing and police officers know their people, and they are aware about what's going on. They will have a contact with them and have a partnership with the shelters,” he said.
With temperatures expected to drop even further during nights this week, those who do stay outside are at very high risk, but there is a service that goes out looking for people where they are.
The Old Brewery Mission van has a driver with a knack for convincing people to come aboard, said Matthew Pearce of the mission.
“We think if they can warm up inside the bus they'll say, ‘Hey this is better than freezing outside,” he said.