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Edmonton social agencies busy helping vulnerable population during cold snap

Hundreds of vulnerable Edmontonians are struggling in the cold this week.

“We’re hearing about frostbite already, we’re hearing about potential amputations happening,” Chris Schieman, communications specialist with the Bissell Centre, told CTV News Edmonton on Tuesday, adding workers at the downtown social agency have been seeing people without socks or shoes.

“The snow caught us a little off guard.”

The Bissell Centre has been busier than usual as of late. More than 7,300 people used its facility last year, a trend that’s continuing into 2024.

“We’re seeing a lot of people coming by looking for warm winter wear,” Schieman said.

“They’re looking for boots, socks, hats, toques, mitts, just anything to help them keep warm.”

Maria Kruszewski of the Inner City Pastoral Ministry, who sets up across 96 Street from the Bissell Centre to offer help to people on the street, said Tuesday she’s been seeing fewer and fewer people over the last few days because it’s been so cold.

“There’s not as many as there has been, but there’s still an awful lot,” she said.

“We need housing for these people.”

Boyle Street Community Services has increased capacity at eight different warming hubs across the city. Those include spaces at its busiest location on Stony Plain Road and at downtown’s All Saints Anglican Cathedral.

Hani Quan, the City of Edmonton’s director of affordable housing and homelessness, says some locations may be busy but that there’s still space for those who need it.

“We have more shelter spaces right now in Edmonton than we’ve had ever, I think,” Quan said.

“There are increased numbers of spaces available for people to go.”

For facilities such as the Bissell Centre, the demand doesn’t look like it’s going to let up soon.

“We had that warm but in there, we were thinking spring was here and now this hit us,” Schieman said.

“We’re just hoping we can respond as best as we can for the community.” 

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