Most Winnipeg residents sleep warmly and comfortably on cold January nights, but there are those who are less fortunate.
Instead of staying at home, Mark Stewart, the director of the Salvation Army's emergency shelter, sits behind the wheel and drives through the city’s streets to help the homeless. Thus, the most vulnerable population of the city feel that they are not alone in such a frosty period.
"The vulnerable people within our community in this area don't always have safe places to go, we want to make sure we're available," Stewart said. "We're showing people support and trying not to allow anyone to fall through the cracks."
Due to the fact that the temperature has reached the minimum level this season, all the city's shelters are overcrowded and can not accommodate all people in need. The Salvation Army is ready to place a large number of people, but not everyone can get to the shelter in such severe weather. Therefore, the cold-weather response vans travel every night and give warm clothes, gloves, hats and shoes to the homeless.
The Salvation Army is the only organization that has extreme environment response vans. For three years, vans leave at 11 p.m. and drive through the streets of Winnipeg until 4 a.m. Stewart said that first of all the vans go to areas where other shelters are located to make sure that no one is stuck on the way there. Also, all bus stops and lanes are checked by the organization.
"This isn't about speed, we take our time and look for people," – he explained.
Stewart said that on Monday night he found a woman on the street he once knew. She had all chances to freeze since she did not have winter shoes. After she was given hot tea and a warm blanket, she was able to get to the shelter.
Then the van came across a man who was wearing a thin jacket. He got a warm coat and was very glad that now he could survive the severe cold.
The Salvation Army calls all city inhabitants to donate warm clothes, shoes and accessories if they can. There are a lot of people on the streets who need them very much.