'Keep an eye out for your neighbours': Shelter officials urge, as cold snap hits Edmonton
EDMONTON -- A bitter cold snap is moving into Edmonton and bringing dangerously low temperatures. Environment Canada says conditions like this in northern Alberta only come around every 50 years, and shelters across the city are doing everything they can to keep Edmontonians safe.
On Thursday, the City of Edmonton triggered its Extreme Weather Protocol for the first time during the pandemic.
"There's just way less places for people to go to warm up - and also there's just less eyes and ears on the street," said Christel Kjenner, director for Edmonton Affordable Housing and Homelessness.
Starting Thursday night as part of the protocol, Edmonton Transit Service began providing free transit on two dedicated bus routes for people who need it.
Officials said 60 people took advantage of the service Thursday night, and there is plenty of room at shelters across the city right now even with COVID-19 distancing taken into consideration.
"We are monitoring it super carefully however, and if we see anything that suggests we might be getting close we'll definitely do what we need to bring on additional space," said Kjenner.
It's a coordinated effort between the city and local shelters. Beds have been made available at the Al Rashid Mosque and Trinity Lutheran Church, with the most space available at the Edmonton Convention Centre.
"That's our largest site with the largest capacity at the moment, and our intake workers can get them set up with shelter and food right away," said Freya Hammond-Thrasher of Boyle Street Communications.
Some Edmontonians have already born the brunt of frigid conditions.
"Frostbite becomes an immediate risk. We've already unfortunately seen it in a few of our community members," said Hammond-Thrasher.
The buses will run nightly from 10:30 p.m. until 8 a.m. through the cold snap. With organizations like Boyle Street asking the public to help out if they can.
Most centres are looking for donations, particularly of warm clothing, including gloves, sweatpants, toques, even hand warmers. They can be dropped off at the Bissell Centre Thrift Shop.
You can also call 211 if you see someone who may be in distress outside... Between the city and organizations like Hope Mission and the Mustard Seed, they'll send a team out to make sure that person has somewhere warm to go if they need it.
“Just keep an eye out for your neighbours. This is a really vital time and just a little bit of support can make a huge difference," said Hammond-Thrasher.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Carlyle Fiset.