With nighttime temperatures expected to dip below -25C throughout the week and daytime temperatures not fairing much better, community service providers such as the Salvation Army are on alert for the risks posed to the public.
“I am expecting a long, busy week,” Tamara Robinson, family services co-ordinator and outreach worker for the Salvation Army said Tuesday. “We’ve been swamped all day.”
Robinson said there are currently about 40 homeless people living in Williams Lake who sleep outside.
“We have a lot of clients who sleep outside in the elements. They are coming to us to let us know what they need and we’re giving them everything we can.”
Robinson said donations of warm adult gloves and mitts are badly needed at the drop-in centre as well as any clean, gently used jackets, scarves and sleeping bags.
“Anything winter-warmth related,” she said.
Robinson said there is currently no emergency weather shelter set up in Williams Lake to deal with the needs brought on by the extreme cold weather, forecasted to hit near -30C by the weekend.
“We don’t have the means to do that,” Robinson said, noting staff at the Salvation Army are stretched thin this time of year coping with community needs and manning the kettles, their largest fundraiser that keeps the Salvation Army operating the drop in centre, addictions programs and food bank throughout the year.
“There is such a great need right now.”
Anyone wishing to donate warm clothing can drop off items at the Salvation Army’s drop-in centre. Volunteers are also needed to man the Christmas kettles.
At School District 27 offices, acting superintendent Mark Wintjes said school buses will not run if the temperatures reach -32C. During the school day, each school staff are tasked with determining what temperature to keep children indoors during the day — which is usually around -13C.
“Our staff will act in the best interest of students to keep them safe and warm and ensure their well-being,” said Wintjes, urging parents and guardians to dress children warm for the cold weather ahead.
Williams Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Del Byron said his officers will be mindful of the cold weather risks and act accordingly to assist the public.
“If we see someone in stress we find them a place to go.”