An extreme warning persists in Prince George as bitterly cold arctic remains entrenched in the area.
These extremely low temperatures are particularly challenging for those in the city experiencing homelessness.
“With the extreme weather strategy that the province helps support and in Prince George we try to ensure that people don’t have to stay outdoors,” explains Kerry Pateman, coordinator with Community Partners Addressing Homelessness in Prince George.
“Shelters have extra beds and they open 24 hours for drop-in.”
B.C.'s temporary extreme weather response shelter program has additional spaces at Active Support Against Poverty (ASAP), Association Advocating for Women and Children (AWAC), and Prince George Native Friendship Centre Society (PGNFC).
“Even with the extra beds that are funded people are still coming in and it’s definitely overcapacity,” says Pateman to PrinceGeorgeMatters. “Agencies do recognize that it’s cold and they are opening their doors.”
Pateman says agencies are also in desperate need of warm clothing items like long johns, and winter boots. Agencies like the Fire Pit, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store or Drop-in Centre, AWAC, ASAP and Ketso Yoh accept donations of warm clothing.
But Pateman says the biggest thing a person can do to help those experiencing homelessness in these cold times is to be kind.
“If you see people, ask them if they need something when you see them on the street — be kind to people,” says Pateman.
“Buy hot coffee and hand it out. Hand warmers or gloves. If people really want to help, there’s all sorts of individuals that could use an extra meal and just hand it out to somebody that could do with it.”
She says it’s important to remember that everyone experiencing homelessness has their own story.
“There are all sorts of different reasons and everyone needs to be treated respectfully and don’t lump everyone together just by the way they look.”
Environment Canada is forecasting a low of -39 C with a wind chill of -49 C tonight (Jan. 13), followed by more cold weather tomorrow (Jan. 14), which will see a high of only -26 C.
“People are just struggling,” says Pateman, adding that the RCMP and Northern Health are involved in making sure people are taken care of during the extreme cold.