In January when temperatures are likely to dip past -30° C, with the windchills reaching -45° C, Winnipeg’s homeless and less fortunate populations feel the cold the most. A Winnipeg Street Census conducted in April 2018 estimates 1,500 people are homeless, up from 1,400 counted in 2015. The survey authors caution this is a significant underestimate as a large amount of unemployed and homeless individuals have temporary housing with family members, and therefore cannot be accurately counted.
As RRT set up our tent just down the sidewalk from one of Winnipeg’s largest shelters it was a cool -32° C. At these temperatures, your fingers begin to numb almost immediately, and there is a high risk of frostbite. The Farmers Almanac advises exposed skin can freeze in 10 to 30 minutes when the windchill reaches -28° C. When the windchill reaches -40° C, exposed skin can freeze in 5 to 10 minutes. Over the next hour, 70 cups of hot chocolate were handed out by very well-bundled Rapid Relief Team Members to grateful people headed towards the shelter. Some chose to stay at our table for a refill (or two!) before continuing on their trek. This trek was via wheelchair for some, and walkers for others.
As we continued to give out hot chocolate at the street corner, we witnessed Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service members in Voluntary Transport System vehicles circulating the neighborhood to transport at-risk individuals to drop-in shelters where they receive food, warmth and can be connected to social support services.
RRT was grateful to be a small part of creating some warmth in Winnipeg on such a bitterly cold day and we look forward to assisting again in the future!