With what Environment Canada is saying could be the worst blizzard to hit southern Manitoba in decades, one organization that works with the homeless and impoverished says the next few days could be very difficult and possibly life-threatening for those who don’t have a place to stay in the city of Selkirk.
“This storm will impact a lot of people,” Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen co-chair Barb Pasaur said on Tuesday, just hours before a massive storm was expected to hit much of southern Manitoba, and bring with it between 30 and 50 centimetres of snowfall and high gusting winds.
“For us, it is very concerning and we’re very worried because we know there are people out there that are going to be forced to find a place and try to ride this storm out.”
The Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen provides those who are homeless or in need of support a place where they can go to warm up and get coffee and a meal in the downtown area of Selkirk, a community of about 10,000 residents in Manitoba’s Interlake region.
But while the organization does what it can to take care of the city’s homeless, Selkirk currently has no shelter where the homeless can stay for extended periods of time if they have nowhere else to go, as a shelter that previously took in the homeless in the city closed its doors in 2018 because of a lack of volunteers to run the facility.
“Sadly it closed because of a lack of support, so when there is a storm like this people either hunker down under the Selkirk bridge or go into a park and hunker down in there, so as you can imagine it can be very dangerous,” Pasaur said.
Pasaur also believes that when storms like the one forecast come to Selkirk, it shows that there is an overall lack of services and supports for the homeless and not a lot of options for those who are seeking shelter in the community.
“There are just not a lot of places where they can go, so it’s very difficult in Selkirk to be without a home,” she said.
“Selkirk is just not a welcoming place for the homeless.”
And because the impending storm is forecasted to drop so much snow and produce such strong winds, Pasaur said she is also worried that the soup kitchen may even be forced to close its doors temporarily this week, giving the homeless even less options to get inside where it’s warm during the storm.
“If this storm does what it is forecast to do, then there is a very good chance we won’t even be able to get in to help people at all,” she said.
“We have a lot of volunteers who drive in from outside of Selkirk and we don’t want anyone driving when it is dangerous, so I do have a feeling we’ll be closed at some points this week.”
She said because of the likelihood they will close, that also means that some in Selkirk may also be forced to go without food for long periods of time during the storm.
“We do get clients that when they are eating that meal we provide them, we know that is the only meal they are going to have for the day, so there is a good chance some who are going without shelter will also be forced to go without food, and go hungry,” Pasaur said.
“All in all, we think it’s going to be a very hard week for some people here in Selkirk.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun