Homeless shelters over capacity as bitter cold grips Calgary
CALGARY -- The latest snap of frigid temperatures in Calgary is a major cause of concern, especially for those living on the streets.
The deep freeze, with wind chills in the -30C range, has local shelters at capacity.
Calgary’s Alpha House is one of eight shelters in the city. It has been over capacity for more than a week with all 120 beds filled, but no one is ever turned away.
"If you see somebody who looks like they could be in need of assistance, either approach them or see if they're okay," said Alana Davison, shelter team lead at Alpha House. "If you don't like doing that you can always call DOAP (Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership) team and they can go and check on the person."
The DOAP team gets upwards of 60 calls each day and the colder teamperatures have prompted the 24/7 agency to add another overnight team to enhance its winter response.
"We want to get them inside to a safe spot and our encampment team is already seeing about 70 camps right now in the cold," said Kristin Horne, Alpha House's outreach team lead. "They don’t have a lot so they’re dealing with minimal items, some camps are a bit more elaborate but we’re just trying to offer them resources as it really is too cold to be outside. "
The Alpha House Encampment Team is also working Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to check on anyone living outdoors. The team is equipped with warm clothing, tuques, gloves, sleeping bags and lunches to pass out to anyone in need.
Despite the bitter cold, some vulnerable Calgarians opt to stay outside where they use just tarps, blankets or heaters to protect themselves. The Alpha House says people may choose not to use the shelter system because they would rather sleep outside with loved ones, rather than staying apart in separate shelters. Others cite past trauma from using the shelter system or were not willing or able to follow shelter rules.
If you would like to donate to help Calgary’s most vulnerable, warm winter clothing (socks, toques coats, gloves and boots) can be dropped off at the Alpha House (203 15th Avenue S.W.) or donations may be made online