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Cold snap stresses homeless supports

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The extreme cold can be a struggle for anyone, but for the homeless it can mean life or death. Environment Canada is calling for wind chills around the -30 mark for the next few days in Grande Prairie. Staff at the Saint Lawrence Centre are spread thin, but Jared Gossen says they are ready to help.

“Between Rotary House and the Saint Lawrence Centre we provide about 23 hours of coverage and shelter for folks who would normally either be staying outside or sleeping in the mat program or staying in tents, that sort of thing. With these extreme temperatures I come in early [and] staff stay late to make sure that we actually don’t close the space at all.”

Gossen says most everyone is accommodating but the space is limited and it can get “hairy” sometimes. The cold can make it challenging for people to get to appointments they may have, but a network of volunteers will try to transport people when they can. Gossen says they try to prepare people as best they can.

“In these kind of colder days it’s just about survival: making sure that if people have come in after a night of being in the cold that they get warmed up properly and hopefully we have the donated gear to get them back out there if they have to go outside.”

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The shelter will see anywhere from about 30 to 50 people during the week. Gossen says even with just 35 people in the space things can get “pretty tight.” However, he adds the visitors show a lot of grace and patience during these cold snaps. Gossen says if you see anyone on the streets that appears to be in imminent danger to contact 9-1-1.

“But if it’s someone that you can stop and have a conversation with and you see that they just need help, touch base see if they know about the Saint Lawrence Centre and about Rotary House and if they’d be willing to come by.”

Currently the shelter is looking for donations of winter gear and sweaters along with new socks and underwear. Gossen says at this time they are only looking for seasonal attire.

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