As daytime temperatures dip below -15 C in the Kingston area, many homeless people are braving the elements, and one local resident is speaking up about what she calls a lack of warming centres in the city.
“We have to stay hours and hours in this, and it’s very, very cold,” said Cynthia Dinovitzer, who splits her time between living in a tent and in shelters.
WATCH (Aug. 14, 2019): ‘I don’t choose to be homeless,’ Belleville resident says amid housing crisis
Global News first met Dinovitzer last summer in Belleville, Ont., where she and her boyfriend, Karson McIntire, were living in a trailer parked in a Walmart parking lot.
“If we can’t find a place to live before the winter, we will be forced to sleep in the van and turn the heat on,” McIntire said in August.
According to Dinovitzer, the trailer burned down in September, and the couple separated shortly after. Dinovitzer moved to Kingston, where she says she lives off disability cheques and panhandles throughout the day in the downtown core.
“In the fall, I wasn’t too cold, but I have to go inside places to warm up now,” Dinovitzer said.
One of the places where she warms up is the Starbucks on the corner of Wellington and Princess streets — a place that has become home to many others looking to escape the outdoors.
“Everybody’s always supportive of each other. We allow , as long as they are being respectful, to warm up,” said Cassandra McKay, a Starbucks employee.
Even though Dinovitzer is grateful for the employees’ generosity, she says the city needs to do more for homeless people when it comes to warming centres and shelters.
Despite having a myriad of daytime warming centres, the city does not offer an overnight warming centre. This is an issue Mayor Bryan Paterson says the city is trying to resolve by adding one such facility in the city.
Paterson also says that while the city is working out the details on the downtown location of an overnight warming centre, funding for the facility has been secured.
In the meantime, the In From the Cold emergency shelter is the only option for those who are homeless and need shelter from the cold overnight. The north-end emergency shelter can house up to 29 people and is open 24-7, but currently, there are an estimated 140 homeless people living permanently in the city.
And due to a lack of services in nearby communities, people without housing from those municipalities may also be congregating in Kingston during the colder months, according to Ruth Noordegraaf, director of Housing and Social Services with the City of Kingston.
“Kingston is the only area in the wider region that has an emergency shelter available, so you could potentially anticipate that others are using our services,” Noordegraaf said.
As for Dinovitzer, she tells Global News she is now focused on working with support workers to secure housing in the Kingston area.
“I just want to get my life back on track.”
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