COVID’s Homeless Catch-22

November 1, 2020 was the beginning [through March 31, 2021] of the period where extra spaces are opened to allow the homeless to get inside and out of severe winter weather conditions and temperatures inimical to survival.

When November 1st arrived Abbotsford had no plan in place to avoid unnecessary winter weather related deaths among Abbotsford’s homeless population.

Fortunately for the homeless Gateway Community Church stepped forward to provide shelter on the days when winter weather poses a significant threat to slife.

Normally the need for extra shelter space to avoid deaths from adverse winter weather conditions would be my primary concern, but this has been anything but a normal year.

Social distancing and isolation from COVID-19 has had negative mental health consequences for me and many others because it closed venues that permitted social interaction.

These venues are the venues that afforded the homeless somewhere they could go to warm up, dry out and perhaps manage dry clothing during the months of winter weather.

Venues that remain closed, leaving the homeless outside all day and unable to warm up or dry out.

Exposure to cold temperatures can result in a drop in the body’s core temperature (hypothermia). As core temperature decreases mental confusion sets in and if the core temperature continues to fall heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure all decrease resulting in a heart attack and death.

Hypothermia can kill in temperatures as high as 10°C (50°F) when you are damp or wet which makes even light winter rain or showers a threat to life as these temperatures do not trigger the opening of extra sheltered spaces for the homeless.

Hypothermia can kill even those who are dry in temperatures of 5° to 7° C, temperatures that also fail to trigger the opening of extra sheltered spaces.

A reality intensified by how hard the City of Abbotsford works to maximize the exposure of the homeless to wet and cold.

The lack of anywhere that is easily accessible and available every day where the homeless can go to warm up and raise their core temperature back to normal leaves the homeless facing prolonged exposure to cold temperatures and a dangerous drop in body temperature leading to hypothermia and death; making the lack of access to a place to get warm and dry a matter of life and death survival.

While the resurgence of COVID-19 raises questions and concerns about extreme weather homeless services and the danger of spreading COVID-19 as well as the headaches and challenges in formulating and enforcing a COVID-19 safety plan for a warming venue, it is important to remember that extreme weather services are about avoiding unnecessary deaths.

It is a politically correct absurdity to protect a person from COVID-19 when that ‘protection’ results in their dying from hypothermia induced heart attack; a cause of death that continues to enable denial of responsibility for the factors that caused the hypothermia and heart attack – cold, COVID-19 policy, actions of the City of Abbotsford or indifference.

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