EDMONTON -- On days of extreme cold, when most Edmontonians would choose to stay indoors and snuggle up with a blanket or a hot drink, Leanna and Arthur find a busy intersection.

“It sometimes can be a little dangerous,” Leanna says, describing how vehicles slide on the ice.

She considers it the better option.

“We don’t want to steal, so we stand here with a sign so we don’t have to,” she told CTV News Edmonton.

“We don’t necessarily bother people. They read their sign and they have a choice what they want to do.”

Leanna, in her 50s, has been homeless for a year and a half after having lost her long-time job, kids and home in a series of tough circumstances and depression.

The money others give her goes to food and heat. On Friday, she and her boyfriend were collecting for a new heater for their camp on the north side. It’s a puzzle of tarps, a shed, and camping supplies.

While others in similar situations often head to warming centres and shelters, Leanna says they can be dangerous.

Boyle Street staff said they’ve had no safety issues this week during the cold snap, but that they understand why some choose to find shelter elsewhere.

“Autonomy,” explained Doug Cooke.

“Even going to a shelter, you’re following certain rules, you’re lining to get in at a certain time.”

The trade off is braving the cold.

“It’s absolutely brutal. When we go fly the sign, we can only be out there for 15, 20 minutes. My hands will totally freeze because I’ve already been frostbitten,” Leanna told CTV News Edmonton.

She said she’s grateful that people have been generous this week.

“There’s a lot of good people out there. Lady who brought me this coat yesterday – she went home, brought me back stuff because my coat was destroyed.

“That is character.”

Cooke recommended those who wanted to help Edmonton's homeless population to donate to the Bissell Community Centre or Hope Mission. Boyle Street also welcomes donations of winter clothes and heating pads. 

With a report from CTV News Edmonton’s Nicole Weisberg