Braving the cold temperatures to hand out warm clothes and hot food to Montreal’s homeless population is something Bruno Tartamella doesn’t think twice about. In fact, it reminds him of his old life.

“Being an ex-addict and ex-alcoholic, I used to sleep in Berri Square when I was younger,” he said.

For the past four years he has organized a food and clothing drive, handing out around 400 winter coats, toiletries and hot meals to people living in the streets. 

His initiative couldn’t come at a better time. Temperatures this week will hover around -20 degrees celcius and will feel like -30 or colder with the wind chill. 

“The winter is horrible to be homeless, that is why we try to give a lot of warm products,” he said. 

Shelters tend to see an increase in clients as the temperature drops, including The Old Brewery Mission. It has reached capacity this week, even after adding more beds. 

“The demand is always high but we have some extra beds especially for the cold weather because we know there will be more people coming in,” said the mission’s coordinator, Alexandre Desjardins 

It’s these kinds of services in Montreal that help to keep some people going, even on the most difficult days. 

For Chris Cedele, The Old Brewery Mission has become a lifeline. 

“These are people who care,” he said. “I've brought 2-3 people here myself. Now they're part of a program and hopefully they'll get on with their lives.” 

Employees and volunteers at the Mission say one of the most important things they do is to make the shelter feel like a home, especially during the holidays. 

“Even if it's hard for them we want to make them feel at home,” said Desjardins. “Basically it's hard to say, we're the only family they have left.”