It’s only a matter of time before winter weather sets in at a Wetaskiwin encampment.
“It’s difficult. Out here, there are no trees, no nothing that we could bare off of,” said Tammy Rowan, who is living at the camp.
For several months, Rowan and about a dozen others have been living behind a big box store.
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While living conditions have been rough, it is what’s coming that most fear.
“I’m scared to lose limbs too because that’s how we lose them is the freezing,” Rowan said.
With time running out, the City of Wetaskiwin has been busy working on temporary accommodations for the winter months starting near the end of November.
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Mayor Tyler Gandam said a $150,000 federal grant plus $35,000 from the city and possible support from the province will fund temporary shelter services at the site, which is owned by the city.
“The solution for the winter is to set up warming shelters. We need a warm place for people to sleep, and that’s been our priority,” Gandam said.
The temporary trailers are not intended for daytime use and will be in service until March.
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Gandam said the city wanted a permanent solution in place but it wasn’t possible.
“The city doesn’t have the ability to provide shelter or that 24-hour care like big cities do. We just don’t have that,” Gandam said.
“Warming units are Band-Aid solutions. These are all just Band-Aid solutions to a deeper societal issue of not being able to help people who are vulnerable,” Hate to Hope Gift of Warmth founder Chevi Rabbitt said.
To help, advocates held a clothing drive this weekend, collecting jackets, blankets, food and hygiene supplies.
“We’ve been able to provide the gift of warmth through a jacket, but that’s not enough. There are more supports,” Rabbitt said.
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Rabbitt said people need permanent, transitional housing and wrap-around services.
“People could lose their fingers to the cold. They can die from frostbite. As soon as winter comes, literally, people are going to be freezing out there in a field,” Rabbitt said.
It’s a reality those living at the camp are all too aware of.
“This is all we got to survive if they don’t give us any more,” Rowan said.
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