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Homelessness group hopes insight comes with cold

Nov 10 2012

As temperatures drop, Andrew Wynn-Williams wants many Greater Victoria residents to become uncomfortably cold - at least temporarily.

Wynn-Williams, Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness executive director, wants people to experience a small taste of what it is like to be homeless and is asking for pledges from those willing to turn off their heat for 24 hours on Dec. 7.

"We're asking people to turn their heat off so they can better understand the hardships of those that live on the street or in homes without heat," Wynn-Williams said.

The experience will offer only a small glimpse of what people on the street have to deal with, but it may help give some insight into the hardships they face, he said.

"They are not just cold, they are often cold and wet and they don't necessarily have a place where they can go inside or more than one pair of dry socks," he said.

Some of those without homes find a bed in shelters or couch-surf, but others are left with no option but the street, Wynn-Williams said.

People were turned away from the main Victoria shelter 1,500 times between November 2011 and March, and the mean temperature in Greater Victoria during that time was between 3 C and 6 C, he said. Hypothermia can start in temperatures as high as 10 C, he said.

Pledges to the campaign can be made at TurnYourHeatOff.ca and participants are being asked to show support and add photos on Twitter and Facebook.

The coalition does not solicit donations, but donations of cash, warm clothes, blankets and sleeping bags will be accepted through another group.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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