Thunder Bay – The City of Thunder Bay and community partners are reminding all citizens to take extra caution when spending time outdoors, especially during extreme cold events.
In a statement issued by the City: The Cold Weather Response Plan will be active for the duration of the COVID-19 municipal state of emergency. With the cold months upon us, Thunder Bay can soon expect extreme cold warnings or special weather alerts from Environment Canada. Due to COVID-19, access to public facilities typically used to find relief from the cold is limited. The Cold Weather Response Plan addresses this gap in our community.
The goal of the Response Plan is to reduce negative health impacts of cold weather conditions on residents of Thunder Bay during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Plan includes a particular focus on preventing direct impacts of cold exposure on people experiencing homelessness.
“Exposure to cold weather can cause serious or life-threatening health problems,” said Kandace Belanger, Manager, Street Outreach and Harm Reduction Programs at Thunder Bay District Health Unit. “People experiencing homelessness are especially at risk due to increased exposure. COVID-19 restrictions also mean there are fewer locations open to the public to warm up and escape the elements, putting folks at increased risks of cold-related injuries like wind burn, trench foot and frost nip, and in extreme cases frostbite and hypothermia.”
On January 15, 2021, a warming centre at People Advocating for Change Through Empowerment (PACE) on Victoria Avenue East opened as part of the plan.
To date it is providing a warm space for approximately 25 – 30 unique individuals a day.
“While individuals accessing area emergency shelters are not required to leave during the day, the numbers demonstrate that there are other individuals who are in need of this additional space to take refuge from the elements,” said Georgina McKinnon, Executive Director for PACE. “Individuals are coming in to get warm, have a coffee and snack, and some are even beginning to access the services of PACE who have not done so before.”
Stakeholders involved are supporting the Plan by providing direct services to people experiencing homelessness, and/or providing specialized expertise on health and safety, weather, or funding to support the delivery of services to people experiencing homelessness.