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Early indications are new warming centre a success

'I just don't want them to freeze to death'
Low barrier shaker on Chippewa Street. Photo by Chris Dawson/BayToday.

Dennis Chippa says most people really cannot comprehend what it is like being homeless and living outside the cold of what is northern Ontario. 

"Minus 4 with no hat, no mitts or holes in your boots, so your socks and feet are wet, and a proper coat," explains Chippa, the executive director of The Gathering Place soup kitchen which is overseeing the warming centre in North Bay.

"So minus 4 is hard, even at that temperature, and if you have no place to go it is even more difficult. That's the reason we have the centre during the day and that is why we are open during the day for the most part. On the more difficult days, we are staying open and letting folks stay here. We have about 35 to 50 that we can take care of and then in the real crisis days probably as we get into February we can open up the Bus Shelter and there will be supports down there as well so the folks can stay warm there as well." 

See related; Three options for Warming Centre 

The Gathering Place is operating a cold weather program at the Northern Pines transitional housing location, next to the low barrier shelter on Chippewa Street during the day from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. That began in the first week of January along with the Gathering Place location on Cassells Street.  

"I just don't want them to freeze to death," said Chippa.  

"We have been really lucky but we know this is not going to last."

Chippa is hoping their efforts make a difference. 

"It is hard to define if it is making an impact," he said.  

"My thing,and I have been very open about this, is we know these folks, we feed them so if something bad should happen and they freeze to death in the snow or they have a difficult medical condition or they have a medical crisis and there is nobody there to help them, first of all, we are going to know who they are and secondly, somebody is going to find them and it may be police, it may be an individual in the community and that is not something we want the community to have to go through.

"So that is why we are trying to keep these folks warm and safe and do the best we can through the course of the winter, get them into the spring and then we go and solve the next problem which is what are we going to do in the spring." 

Chippa adds that some agencies coming to offer things like foot care and he's hoping to get more agencies engaged so maybe they can do some training.

"Do some talks, do some visits to get them there," said Chippa.  

Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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