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High demand for emergency shelters in Winnipeg as temperatures drop


The demand for emergency shelters is high as people experiencing homelessness are desperate to escape the cold. With temperatures plummeting, more beds are now being added.

Philip Matthews sits on a mattress inside of St. Boniface Street Links temporary shelter on St. Mary's Road – a reprieve from the bitter cold outside.

Matthews and his partner, who is pregnant, found themselves without a place to live in December. As the temperature dipped this week, they had to spend a night outside.

"It's stressful. I don't have words for it," he told CTV News.

Matthews is among the several people who made it to St. Boniface Street Links shelter which opened on Monday, and quickly filled up. The space, partially funded by the city, has room for around 20 people.

"We have been busy every single day since the extreme weather hit. We've been full before 2 p.m. every single day," said Marion Willis, founder of St. Boniface Street Links.

Other emergency shelters are also filling up due to the cold.

"It's definitely a much more challenging time for those we support," said Cindy Titus with Main Street Project. "Our emergency shelter has a bed capacity of about 120 people. We definitely reach capacity early in the evening."

With the need greater than the space available and the dangerously cold weather, the city and End Homelessness Winnipeg also provided funding for a winter pop-up shelter running at Siloam Mission.

"The City of Winnipeg has been working with our shelter partners to create some of those pop-up shelters and to make sure there is support for those living unsheltered," said Lisa Gilmour, assistant chief for community risk reduction with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.

For the third winter, the Sabe Peace Walkers are setting up a camp outside Thunderbird House, which includes a fire pit and tipi where people can warm up.

"Maybe we can help them find somewhere safe to go for the night, maybe they can sit around the fire, eat some food, sometimes families bring donations," said Cofounder Rylee Nepinak.

The city also offers leisure centres and libraries as places to warm up during regular operating hours.

The city said transit inspectors who come across people in bus shelters do provide information about emergency shelters that are open and call emergency crews if that's needed. If a bus driver spots someone sleeping in one, they are asked to notify transit's control centre so inspectors or emergency personnel can respond. Top Stories

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