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Cold snap is more than an inconvenience for the homeless; it can be deadly

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Summary

People living on the streets of Metro Vancouver who can't or won't go to shelters find other ways to stay warm

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A beautiful December frost is blanketing the city, but people living on the streets of Metro Vancouver don’t quite see it the same way as many others might.

Freezing temperatures — hitting as low as minus five in parts — is nothing shocking if you can just throw on a scarf, some mittens, and head inside when you’re done with the cold.

But for thousands of people in Metro Vancouver, that’s not an option. For one woman living out of a tent in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park, neither was leaving her partner behind.

“I don’t understand why there are no shelters for couples, we do everything together,” she told NEWS 1130.

Some say they don’t feel welcome at the city’s four overnight warming centres, and that they also have trouble finding a bed at a homeless shelter either.

Others describe shelters as often being “unsafe”.

“Or they have bed bugs left, right and centre. I don’t care, I’d rather sleep out here in this weather than have bed bugs,” another person said.

Overnight lows are forecast to stay below zero all week. For some, that means wandering the streets to keep moving, while others take shelter in 24-hour fast food restaurants.

Another trick: hiding in a hotel lobby until someone kicks you out.

“We walked around, walked around and snuck into lobbies whenever we could,” a woman at the park said. “We found some foyers and sat in there, warmed up for a while.”

Temporary warming centres are open in some municipalities as the cold snap is set to last the week.

A helping hand

Those who help out the homeless are scrambling to make sure everyone is okay as temperatures dip below freezing.

Kimberly Snow from Kimz Angels says her group will be feeding hundreds of people in Langley this morning alone.

She says those of us with a roof over our head need to remember one thing.

“Please don’t judge them. Just lend a hand, open your hearts and just let them in. That’s all they need, the help and someone that cares.”

Snow says many of the homeless people she sees are dealing with a multitude of problems including mental health issues.