Extreme heat coming to Manitoba ‘unlivable’ for unsheltered people: advocate – Winnipeg |

Forecasts from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) show things are going to be heating up in Manitoba this week, as the province prepares for a blast of hot temperatures.

After a cool, wet start to the summer, the heat may be welcomed by some, but for others, it can pose a significant risk.

Those like Al Wiebe know it all too well.

“In wintertime, I suffered from hypothermia and frostbite in every conceivable place. But in the summertime, it was even worse because, you know, I suffered from heatstroke, which nearly killed me,” he said.

Wiebe said he was homeless for about 28 months from 2012 to 2014.

Almost 10 years later, he is housed and is grateful for his air-conditioned apartment, but with a wave of summer heat in the forecast, Wiebe says he’s worried for others who aren’t as fortunate.

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“For folks on the street, when they’re out there 24/7, it’s almost unlivable and people die,” he said.

In Winnipeg, daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs in the low 30s by Wednesday, and nighttime lows in the upper teens. Both are expected to feel warmer with the humidity.

Cindy Titus, the communications manager for Main Street Project, said these conditions could trigger this year’s Extreme Summer Weather Community Response Plan.

“If the temperatures land at 32 degrees or higher during the daytime, and then no less than 16 degrees overnight, our group will kind of mobilize and work toward the plans that we have in place. What that looks like is, through End Homelessness Winnipeg, there’s increased funding available for homeless serving organizations like Main Street Project,” she said.

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There are more than 40 stakeholders in the plan, she said, noting it’s essential to keeping the city’s most vulnerable safe from heat-related risks.

“People experiencing homelessness tend to spend a lot more time outside. They face greater exposure to the elements and thus will have greater increase of heat related illness,” she said.

“We’re looking at things like sunburn, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration. Those are very extreme and potentially dangerous situations for people.”

To help, Titus said Main Street Project will set up a cooling tent with items like sunscreen and water. She also said donations of summer clothing to distribute would be beneficial.

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“Hats, ballcaps and other summer type of hats, t-shirts, tank tops, shorts, light jackets, shoes that are appropriate for our community — So comfortable footwear like runners and sandals — sunscreen, towels would be helpful, and then we always need new underwear and new socks,” she said.

Mike Olczyk, the emergency management coordinator for the City of Winnipeg said there are also eight hydration stations around the city, set up in areas accessible to unsheltered people.

“Winnipeggers can go utilize these stations to access clean drinking water when they need. So they’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

Olczyk noted several community centres have also signed up to serve as cooling spaces.

“For this heat season, we’ve got six community centres that are signed up to serve as cooling spaces. So if any Winnipeggers are in those areas, there’s a place where you can go into those facilities, just to take a break from the extreme heat,” he said.

“If you need to, they’ll have bottled water available, as well as some informational material on extreme heat as a hazard.”

Wiebe said  it may come as a surprise, but making washrooms available to all can also be critical, explaining that people who may present as not having a home are often banned from using them.

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“People can wash up and cool down. I would go in there and just soak my face and soak my head and my hair and go, and I’d be good for two hours and then, you know, maybe find another one, right.

“Because, every once and a while when I did shave and feel like being respected, I did not look like a homeless person,” he said, adding it’s also another way to keep heat stroke away.

Despite some of the supports available, Wiebe said it’s important for Winnipeggers to look out for those exposed to the heat.

“It’s all up to all of us to make a difference or to try to and, you know, give an extra bottle of water to somebody on the street,” he said.

“People who are experiencing homelessness are so discriminated against. There’s so much stigma against them.”

He urged those who encounter people experiencing homelessness to imagine themselves in their position, and not to treat them as invisible.

“When you’re on the street, all your self-worth, self-confidence, you know, is gone. So one single positive word can make a difference in a person’s life for a day or a week,” he said.

Those who see someone struggling in the heat are encouraged to call 2-1-1, or 9-1-1 in emergencies.

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More information about Winnipeg’s heat relief plan can be found at

Click to play video: 'Main Street Project in desperate need of bottled water for Winnipeg’s vulnerable'

Main Street Project in desperate need of bottled water for Winnipeg’s vulnerable

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