If you think a pandemic winter is tough, imagine trying to survive it without a roof over your head. That’s the scenario that more than 235,000 Canadians face amid the bitter cold.
Without the right supplies, these individuals tragically succumb to the elements, illness, or both. That’s why the Canadian charity Islamic Relief Canada stepped up to the plate to provide winter survival kits for Victoria’s homeless people.
The Forces Driving the Homelessness Crisis
Contrary to popular myth, people don’t choose to live without shelter, especially in a harsh climate. Multiple factors influence why individuals lose housing. Tragically, mental health issues and addiction contribute to the problem, although it’s often a chicken-and-egg question as to whether such issues arose before the individual found themselves on the street or whether the harshness of their existence drove their need to escape.
The health care sector lurks behind some of the soaring rates. Since the 1980s, Canada has seen a 3,000% increase in the volume of opioids purchased by pharmacies and hospitals. When doctors prescribe drugs like fentanyl for off-label purposes, patients can become hooked, turning to street drugs when they lose their prescription fix.
Another factor driving the crisis is soaring real estate inflation. Home prices have increased by 375% over the last two decades in Canada, with even steeper inclines in Vancouver and Toronto.
This inflation also sends rental costs soaring. As a result, many individuals find themselves priced out of a place to live, even if they work hard and follow the rules. With shelters overflowing, many individuals have no recourse other than their cars or whatever makeshift windbreak they can create on the street.
The Islamic Relief Canada Effort
With the chilliest winter nights dipping well into the negative numbers, the cold poses the most imminent risk to Canada’s homeless people. Those living in vehicles can’t run their engines indefinitely — doing so costs precious gas money they don’t have. Those without such shelter fare even worse.
The problem compounds amid a pandemic. While frigid temperatures alone won’t make people sick, they lower the immune response, making homeless people riper for infection. They often can’t access personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks. Nor do they have access to typical sanitation, like sinks, for washing their hands.
Therefore, volunteers with Islamic Relief Canada assembled 20 winter kits. The North Park Neighbourhood Association and the BCMA Masjid Al-Iman will distribute the goods to those in need. Each kit contains warm weather gear like jackets, blankets, gloves, socks, and hats. They also include hygiene supplies like face masks, soap, sanitary napkins, and hand sanitizer.
The charity hopes to give back to the community by protecting these vulnerable individuals. The act coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Quebec mosque shooting.
How You Can Help
You don’t have to live in the province to do your part in helping this winter. Anyone can assemble care packages for this population. Keep them in your car — you never know when you may find someone in need of help. Include the items listed above, along with snacks and maybe some extra cash if you have it.
Islamic Relief Canada Providing Winter Survival Kits
Islamic Relief Canada shows the difference people can make by providing winter survival kits for this population. You, too, can show homeless people you care by supplying them with the tools they need to make it through the cold season.