A cold realization: Letter to the Editor

Nearly 100 people die in Canada every year due to extreme cold temperatures, and many more suffer from frost-bite, hypothermia, amputations, and extended hospital stays.

Winter temperatures in Northern Ontario commonly reach -30°C with the wind chill, and people who are homeless are especially vulnerable to the effects of extreme cold. There are more than 425 people who are homeless in the downtown area of Greater Sudbury alone. Many spend long periods outside with inadequate outerwear and footwear, and without access to regular, warm meals.

People become homeless for many reasons, such as escape from abuse or family dysfunction, or economic circumstances, such as low wages, a job loss, inadequate social assistance rates, or an inability to work due to injury, mental illness, or a disability.

Life on the streets makes people vulnerable to serious health crises, violence, and involvement with illegal activities and the justice system. These outcomes not only affect those who are homeless and vulnerable, they affect the whole community. The Homelessness Hub’s 2013 report on the state of homelessness in Canada estimated services reaching homeless populations cost Canadian tax payers roughly $7 billion annually.

At this time of year, we are even more mindful of the need to invest in programming, services, and research to help people in need. The Ontario government has committed to ending chronic homelessness in 10 years. Promising programs such as a Basic Income Guarantee and the Local Poverty Reduction Fund are being explored by the province to reduce poverty. Housing First programs have also been shown to be effective, reducing costs in communities where they have been implemented.

With warm hearts, we can work together to denormalize homelessness and confront the cold reality that many face this time. We can act now to end homelessness.

What you can do

  • Donate warm blankets, warm socks, mittens, hats, long underwear, footwear and outerwear to local aid groups, for example, the Salvation Army or the Elgin Street Mission. Donations to the Off the Street overnight winter shelter can be dropped off between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Canadian Mental Health Association, 111 Elm Street.
  • Donate time or money to agencies that work to prevent homelessness.
  • Consider participating in fundraising events that support vulnerable and homeless people, such as the Samaritan Centre’s Coldest Night of the Year event on February 25. See https://canada.cnoy.org/location/sudbury.
  • Connect with other local agencies working to address homelessness:
    • L’Association des jeunes de la rue (705.675.6422)
    • Cedar Place (705.586.3293)
    • Off the Street Emergency Shelter Program (705.675.7252)
    • Homelessness Network (705.673.3721, ext. 201)
  • Learn about preventing frostbite and hypothermia at https://www.sdhu.com/news/help-prevent-frostbite-and-hypothermia.
  • Use your voice and discuss the complex causes and impacts of homelessness. Visit www.sdhu.com/change.
  • Learn more about what the province is doing to reduce poverty and homelessness:

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health
Sudbury & District Health Unit

This item was last modified on February 24, 2017