The first cold snap of the year is finally fading, but despite the past week of frigid temperatures and snowfall, Calgary's warming centres have yet to open.
And when they do launch Dec. 1, it will only be during daytime and evening hours.
"A lot of [our] clients, during the day, either go to cash jobs [or] panhandle all over the city, so they're gone from the light of day in the morning until just after supper," said Jennifer Rapuano-Kremenik, founder and executive director of the non-profit Harvest Hills Cares Calgary.
"If the warming centres are only open until 7 at night, after 7 p.m. you're going to have people freeze to death at bus stops. You're going to have people trying to huddle in CTrain shelters, in bus shelters."
In the weeks remaining before the centres open, the colder temperatures are already impacting those experiencing homelessness.
On multiple days through the start of November, Environment Canada's forecasts warned of the risk of frostbite.
"Ultimately we will see the amputations that we see every single year of the fingers, we've seen the legs, and then when spring and summer comes along, we will of course be changing the bandages of the amputations that come as a consequence of the winter frostbite," said Chaz Smith, founder and CEO of Be The Change YYC.
Matt Nomura, vice president of strategic investments and community impact at the Calgary Homeless Foundation, said the organization and its partners are trying to navigate the situation with the funding they have.
"With limited resources, we're looking at budgeting from December to March 31," said Nomura, noting that any overnight needs will be left to traditional shelters.
Rapuano-Kremenik worries that the city waiting for the weather to change instead of taking action could lead to severe consequences.
"It's not that hard to check the weather and say, okay, we're expecting a cold snap from this day to this day, why not open the warming centres from this day to this day, if the temperatures dip to a certain degree," she said.
That's what other cities do to keep those experiencing homelessness safe.
In Vancouver, extreme weather response shelters are opened whenever the temperature is — or feels like — at or below 0 C.
That city's temporary winter shelters are opened nightly from November to March.
Nomura said there were many lessons learned during their first year of opening warming centres last winter, and they are considering what it would take to launch earlier in years to come.
"I think it provides us an opportunity to re-evaluate going into next year if we can stretch the budget even further to co-ordinate with a Nov. 1 launch," said Nomura.
"If we evaluate, when we do our look-back that additional funds are needed, I think that that's just a continuous conversation that we have with our city partners in respect to the reality of what we were able to achieve and what we believe we need more of."
A temporary solution
While there may be criticism around the planned launch date for warming centres, Nomura emphasized there are still resources available.
He said shelters are running at about 70 per cent capacity and they will be working with the DOAP team through winter to support and transport people who may seek shelter in transit stations.
In a perfect world, Nomura said, they'd be able to house people instead of offering temporary places to warm up.
"The real challenge that we're faced with is a real lack of affordable housing here in Calgary, and that takes a tremendous amount of commitment from all orders of government to address this issue," Nomura said.
Even the city's outreach teams acknowledge that warming centres are far from an ideal answer.
"What we're facing is not just an inflation crisis, but it's coupled with a housing crisis where we just simply do not have enough housing for folks in need," Smith said.
"Warming centres are a great Band-Aid solution [but] ultimately this goes back to housing, and we desperately need more housing across the province and across the country."