Pembroke’s growing homeless population is set to face its toughest test of the year – winter.
However, refuge is on the way this year, with the city of Pembroke committing $100,000 towards opening an overnight warming centre downtown.
“It’ll be a safe place for individuals to get out of the cold,” said Pembroke coun. Troy Purcell, who has been chosen as the city’s representative on the county’s new ad hoc warming centre committee.
The county of Renfrew and township of Laurentian Valley have also committed $80,000 and $20,000, respectively, to the initiative.
The warming centre is set to be located at the Pembroke Farmers’ Market site, and will open each night from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.
The Pembroke and Area Community Task Force is expecting to open the warming centre by December 1.
“We were concerned with the coming winter, that there would be tragedies with people living on the streets and the extreme cold,” said Steven Boland, chair of the task force.
“Depending on the weather, we’ll be operating until sometime into April.”
The warming centre is said to be similar to a mobile construction trailer that will be placed at the site. Inside will include recliner chairs, washroom facilities, and security guards.
Last winter, The Grind community kitchen offered an overnight warming centre to Pembroke’s homeless population. Pandemic funding for that program has since ended.
The Grind’s executive director Jerry Novak tells CTV News that the local homeless population has grown from a year ago and expects considerable use of the warming centre.
“There was probably 24, 25 that stayed with us for the four months,” Novak says of last winter’s visits to the centre.
“So with the increase now in the community, we’re probably going to see about 30 or so maybe. Maybe sometimes 40 (people).”
Renfrew County Paramedics say they are receiving an increased number of calls for the region’s homeless population.
Community paramedic Matthew Stanfield says serious health risks can occur when people are exposed to winter conditions for prolonged periods of time.
“Often times what we’re running into are cold related injuries.
“So whether that’s hypothermia or frostbite to the extremities first and then to the core, or whether that’s a more extreme issue like unconsciousness or a heart problem because of how cold they’ve actually become being outside.”
Purcell adds that lobbying for funding for the warming centre has been ongoing since March.
“The weather is rapidly changing and we need to work quickly to get this in place.”
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