Cooler, snowier weather headed for B.C. brings concerns for people experiencing homelessness

·2 min read
Janice Szostak works at the Union Gospel Mission (UGM), which she used to take shelter in when she experienced homelessness. She recalls how painful it is to be out in the cold without relief.  (Janella Hamilton/CBC - image credit)
Janice Szostak works at the Union Gospel Mission (UGM), which she used to take shelter in when she experienced homelessness. She recalls how painful it is to be out in the cold without relief. (Janella Hamilton/CBC - image credit)

This weekend marks the first cold weather stretch of the season in the province, and as colder and snowier weather is expected to arrive in B.C., concern grows for those without shelter to keep warm.

"This is by far the coldest air we've seen so far this season across the south coast," said CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.

"People outside are definitely at risk for their body temperature lowering to dangerous levels."

According to Wagstaffe, overnight temperatures could be as low as 4 C in Metro Vancouver this weekend.

"These temperatures might not sound extreme ... but hypothermia is still a concern," she said.

'It is so painful to be cold'

Janice Szostak experienced homelessness in the past and remembers how painful it is to be out in the cold without relief.

"You're usually walking with bare minimum clothes when you're homeless … You wake up freezing and there's nowhere to go," she told CBC Vancouver.

"I remember my legs being solid, frozen from the pouring rain ... it is so painful to be cold ... it's the worst thing in the world."

Szostak now has a place she calls home and works at the Union Gospel Mission (UGM), a place that sheltered her when she was experiencing homelessness.

The shelter is giving out 1,400 hot to-go meals to those who need it throughout the Thanksgiving long weekend, saying it will provide some warmth to those who have to brave the increasingly cold weather.

Janella Hamilton/CBC
Janella Hamilton/CBC

"At this time of year, it can really be miserable," said Nadia Tchoumi, manager of media relations and communications at UGM.

"We know that through the fall weather, it can get tough and cold and hard. And when you have no break from the elements, it's just not easy."

Cold weather may be here to stay, meteorologist says

According to Wagstaffe, it may not get any easier for those without shelter this season, as the colder weather may be here to stay.

"We are heading into a La Niña winter, which typically means a cooler and snowier year for us across British Columbia," Wagstaffe said.

"We're going to continue to see [temperatures] drop in the weeks ahead," she said, adding that the provinces' first freezing night may not be too far in the future.

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