VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — This cold, snowy weather is a good reminder to check on our most vulnerable.
The stakes are high for the homeless this week, and Union Gospel Mission’s Jeremy Hunka says they’ve been busy handing out mittens, toques, even boots to those sleeping outside.
He urges everyone to keep an eye out for those who may need help.
“If you think you need to call somebody, do that because it’s just a dangerous time. We have seen people die in the snow. We’ve seen people die in the cold. We’ve seen people be severely burned in their tents, trying to keep warm with a candle…and [they’ve] lit their tent on fire,” he tells NEWS 1130.
— Ria Renouf (@riarenouf) January 13, 2020
Hunka says no one has died from the cold this winter, but with these rare, low temperatures, they’re really hoping it stays that way.
However, the rare round of winter weather poses challenges in the city, one, in particular, is the age demographic of the homeless population.
“There’s a big senior population among the homeless, and they’re already battered because of the weather, getting sick, getting ill,” he explains.
He also says the conversations UGM has been having with those in need of help are heartbreaking.
“Some of them have been telling us that they’re scared, they’re frightened. They know that this type of cold rarely sets in here, and it can have really bad consequences,” he says.
Incredible snowfall tonight on Hastings Street. Our shelter will be open tonight as a refuge to more than 70 guests who would otherwise be outside in the cold and snow. #endhomelessness #BCStorm pic.twitter.com/wXRcBSNjSK
— Union Gospel Mission (@ugm) January 13, 2020
The UGM shelter will be open and it will be making sure people on the streets have what they need.
“Handing out things like survival gear, things like sleeping bags, jackets…in certain cases, boots,” he says.
Hunka stresses the importance of trusting your gut — if you see someone who appears to be struggling, ask if they need help or call 911 if it’s a serious issue.