Unhoused people in Kingston, Ont., struggle against viciously cold weather

As temperatures neared record lows in Kingston overnight Thursday into Friday, the over 200 unhoused people in the city struggled against the brutal conditions.

Friday marked the coldest day of the year so far as Environment Canada has issued extreme cold warnings for most of Ontario.

For those without a roof over their head, the conditions can lead to frostbite and hypothermia.

“In this extreme weather, we will see three or four individuals tonight that will come in and have experienced frostbite today,” said Amanda Brierley, the supervisor at a warming centre and shelter on Concession Street.

For a person like Kristen Jensen, who is wheelchair-bound and has been homeless for two years, tackling extreme elements like cold weather is difficult.

“Finding somewhere to go and hang out, use the washroom, you know, just get out of the cold, even just to warm up for a second, is extremely hard on top of being homeless,”

According to data from The Homeless Hub, a national research site, there are 207 people experiencing homelessness in Kingston as of 2021.

To help the unhoused, the city has four shelters with a total of 60 beds, one of which Jensen says is not easy to come by.

“The anxiety is just … overwhelming. I have a hard time on a nice day and now it’s extremely cold. What am I going to do now?” she said.

Currently, the situation for Kingston’s unhoused population is in a delicate spot.

The city says it can’t continue to fund the programs such as the Integrated Care Hub alone, and has been pressing the provincial government to step in to help.

An encampment of 50 or more people in the area surrounding the Integrated Care Hub on Montreal Street has been given a deadline of March 20, the first day of Spring.

After that, the city says they’ll need to pack up and find somewhere else, citing the fact that the encampment is on or beside a large portion of the publicly used K&P Trail.

Organizations like Home Base Housing, Our Livable Solutions, the Integrated Care Hub and others say they’ve been working double time during the pandemic to aid the ever growing fight to help Kingston’s unhoused.

With the cold snap coming to a head, it’s expected to get worse before it gets better, with Environment Canada predicting temperatures to drop as low as -27C Friday evening before it begins to ease.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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