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Extreme cold keeps Halifax warming centre busy

Centre already open 29 days this season

2 min read
caption The warming centre operates out of the basement of St. Matthew's United Church.
Kathleen Jones

Halifax’s warming centre has been busier than usual this year, as the extreme cold pushes people off the streets and into the centre.

The centre, located in St. Matthew’s United Church on Barrington Street, opens when temperatures hit -15 degrees Celsius or the wind chill reaches -20. Since November, it’s been open 29 days, more than it was open all of last year.

“That says to me quite a lot about the cold and wind chill that people have had to cope with,” said Sheri Lecker, the executive director of Adsum for Women and Children. Adsum helps run the centre along with several other partners, including Out of the Cold and Shelter Nova Scotia.

The centre provides emergency cold weather relief, as well as snacks and hot drinks. It opened in 2017.

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Last year, it was open a total of 26 or 27 days between November and April, said Lecker.

In the past two years, the centre saw about 15 people in an entire day. This year, it’s seen 15 to 20 people at any given time, Lecker said, and the ones coming it at 11 a.m. may not be the same ones who are there at 4 p.m.

On Monday, it reached -22 in Halifax with the wind chill. There have been five others days in February where the temperatures have dipped below -15, according to data from Environment Canada.

Out of the Cold shelter affected

The cold weather has also had an effect on emergency shelter Out of the Cold, said Rebecca Whitzman, shelter co-ordinator. Out of the Cold takes over the basement of St. Matthew’s at 8:30 p.m., when the warming shelter shuts down for the day.

Out of the Cold only has 15 beds, but this winter, it’s taken in extra people. Whitzman said two to four people have occasionally slept on couches when beds aren’t available.

She said they are now short on cold weather items like gloves and thermal underwear. They also need fast-food gift cards and bus tickets.

Out of the Cold runs from 8:30 p.m. to 8 a.m., with a drop-in time from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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