Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cold a matter of survival for some

City's needy scramble to find warm clothing

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Tom Goulet was at Lighthouse Mission on Sunday hoping to find a few bits of clothing to help keep him warm as the temperatures drop.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Tom Goulet was at Lighthouse Mission on Sunday hoping to find a few bits of clothing to help keep him warm as the temperatures drop. Photo Store

WHEN it's -42 with the wind chill, getting decent winter clothing is a matter of survival.

That's why Tom Goulet got up early Sunday morning to be first in line at Lighthouse Mission's annual Clothe the City event. He was hoping to get a parka and winter boots to replace his worn-out jacket and runners with holes in them.

There was a scramble for brand-new winter jackets and the one he'd picked was snatched away from him, he said.

"Everybody's trying to defend themselves," said Goulet. "It's survival when you're talking -40 and not prepared for it."

In these conditions, frostbite can occur in as little as five to 10 minutes, Environment Canada said. It issued a wind-chill warning across southern Manitoba on Sunday, at the same time as the mission on Main Street was running its annual winter clothing event.

"It was chaos," Goulet said. "The staff and volunteers tried to control it."

He left in the same worn jacket and holey runners he arrived in but managed to snag a good pair of winter gloves to replace the thin mini-gloves in which he arrived.

"I'm not going to fight over anything," said Goulet. He figures the person who took the new coat from him must have been more desperate than he. "Everybody has their reasons," he said.

"I'm lucky with what I got," said the 55-year-old, who is on a disability pension and battling depression. "I feel sorry for the less fortunate."

Event organizer Ashley Wood said they received some very generous cash donations and were able to purchase some new coats and boots.

"Unfortunately, not enough," said Wood, who organized the first Clothe the City event in 2006. "We never do have enough donations."

Clothe the City serves about 150 people every year but there is still a huge need for warm winter clothing, said Wood, who works at a bank.

Volunteers had put up posters in the area and word spread quickly warm winter clothing was coming.

On Sunday, the annual event that was supposed to run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. started much earlier, out of compassion.

"We actually opened the doors at 8:30 because there were people lined up outside who weren't wearing coats," Wood said. "We showed up early with four carloads of donations and a truck," she said. "We went through most of our donations before 10 a.m., our original start time."

In addition to winter coats, boots, tuques and mitts, they had jeans, blankets, new long johns, underwear and socks.

On Sunday morning it was -42 with the wind chill and below-normal temperature. Environment Canada said it's expected to feel like -39 today with the wind chill, with bitterly cold, sunny days forecast for the rest of the week.

Around noon Sunday, Goulet heard another truckload of donated winter clothing was expected and he stuck around to see if he could get a winter coat. Many other Lighthouse Mission visitors stuck around, too, to stay out of the cold.

"This is a place to spend time and chat and not worry about finding another place to go," said Wood.

They served bannock, soup, chili, buns and chocolate cake to the visitors.

"A lot of them are homeless or transient or in treatment centres," said Wood.

"There's a lot more people than space for them," she said. "That's one more reason we're serving food and coffee."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 9, 2013 A3

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Updated on Monday, December 9, 2013 at 6:58 AM CST: Replaces photo

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