ANKORS is leading talks with several local churches to establish a year-round extreme weather shelter in Cranbrook.
This comes after a severe cold snap in December, when overnight temperatures plunged to -40 with the wind chill.
“We saw a lot of folks who had frostbite to their extremities,” said Polly Sutherland, ANKORS Team Lead and Harm Reduction Coordinator. “Because of the cold, people are extremely vulnerable if they’re using substances. We know with the toxic drug supply circulating right now, it can be very problematic if they’re using outside.”
The organization will have discussions with Cranbrook Alliance Church, First Baptist Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook Connect Church and Christ Anglican Church.
“We’re going to have discussions over a Zoom meeting around what our steps for the next cold snap,” said Sutherland. “We also are going to be engaging in conversations moving forward about having a permanent warming centre and an extreme weather response so we’re not scrambling to have this stuff put in place.”
Sutherland said they hope to arrange a shelter that can health people escape the heat in the summer time as well.
Sutherland said a number of local organizations and residents sprung into action to support those in need amid December’s cold snap.
“We had monetary donations given by some churches and the people who attend those churches, as well as the general public,” explained Sutherland. “We also had a response from the emergency lodge at the Travelodge, opening up additional beds, from the Alliance Church opening up their space overnight, and ANKORS staff willing to work those shifts to make this happen.”
“I think the biggest lesson is that we can make things happen quite quickly and effectively when we work together.”
Sutherland also addressed a rumour that cold exposure led to fatalities in Cranbrook in December, with the story going so far as to be reported by the CBC.
“We had reported that there was a couple of deaths in Cranbrook due to exposure. We know now that it’s not accurate information,” said Sutherland. “I just want people to know that there has been no deaths in December due to exposure in Cranbrook.”