The MLA for Kootenay East is seeking immediate action to protect Cranbrook’s unhoused population from the extreme cold.
Frigid weather is dragging temperatures down to -32 this week, with wind chills expected to reach about -40.
This kind of cold puts people at risk of frostbite, especially those who don’t have a warm place to stay.
“In light of the recent fatality that has happened due to exposure, we’re seeing very vulnerable people who have fallen through the cracks,” said MLA Tom Shypitka. “Now they’re being exposed to the element and very cold winter conditions and we’re seeing some tragedies.”
Shypitka is urging the provincial government and the City of Cranbrook to bring in a temporary warming shelter as soon as possible.
“It’s not something we need in a week or two weeks or a month or two, it’s something we need today,” said Shypitka. “Nobody deserves to be exposed or be vulnerable the way they are right now.”
“Injuries can range from major discomfort to death. Some folks are getting frostbite and risk getting amputations. It’s absolutely tragic,” said Shypitka. “I thought we need to put our heads together and get all the agencies, councils and political figures together and get something to happen immediately.”
Shypitka is trying to get organize different levels of government and community organizations to set up a warming shelter.
In the meantime, ANKORS has stepped into gear to help out as much as they can.
“We’re kicking into gear above the City because they just haven’t responded. We’re working with two local churches and there’s another church on board,” said Polly Sutherland, ANKORS team lead and harm reduction coordinator.
The organization will staff temporary shelters at Connect Church and the First Baptist Church from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. from Tuesday to Thursday night.
Sutherland has offered her contact information for anyone in need of a place to stay and transportation to get there
“We don’t want people to be waking long distances because they can get frostbite quickly if they’re houseless,” said Sutherland. “This is just a place to come and get out of the cold for the night.”
He hopes to see something set up this week to help Cranbrook’s unhoused residents get through the winter.
“It’s the season of fellowship and looking out for one another. It’s a holiday season that’s supposed to bring us together,” said Shypitka. “This would be the ultimate test of the spirit of the season and making sure it’s still true. If anything else, in the spirit of the holiday season, let’s make this work for everybody and let’s not leave anyone out in the cold.”
If you need a warm place to stay overnight for the next few days, you can contact Polly Sutherland at 250-421-4949.