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Packed shelters working together to help homeless as extreme cold continues

Hamilton’s shelters are packed as the city’s social agencies make a coordinated effort to ensure everyone has somewhere to stay warm during the extended cold spell.

Hamilton is now in the seventh day under an extreme cold alert.

Environment Canada issued a weather warning for the region Thursday morning stating the wind chill could make it feel like –36 overnight, so residents should take all necessary safety precautions as frostbite could develop in minutes.

The combination of arctic air and windchill are being felt by the city’s most vulnerable, according to according to Dan Miller from the Salvation Army Booth Centre, who said its 82 beds have been occupied all week.

Staff have also been housing people in the centre’s 13 overflow beds to keep them out of the elements.

“As soon as it’s that cold at night we need to get everybody off the street,” he explained. We don’t want anybody to lose their life on the street because of the cold.”

The Salvation Army is part of a city-wide network of agencies and shelters including the Street Outreach Team, Mission Services and Good Shepherd that work together to make sure there’s room for everyone to escape the extreme cold.

The organization’s soup truck has also continued to tour around downtown, handing out hot drinks and sandwiches along with blankets, mittens and socks.

Working together to keep people warm

During extreme cold events the city shares the Salvation Army’s 24-hour phone number 905-527-1444 Ext. 0 where people can report someone in need of shelter. So far that number has been kept busy, with plenty of calls.

“If our beds are full we call around to the other shelters and make sure as a collaboration of city teams that we can find beds for people so that they aren’t staying out in the cold,” said Miller.

He encouraged anyone who spots someone sleeping outside in frigid temperatures to talk to them and ask if they’re willing to go to a shelter.

“Don’t be afraid to do that because they’re people and we want them off the street,” said Miller. “We’ve been managing and we won’t leave anybody out there. We’ll find a place for them no matter what we have to do.”

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