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456 nights in the cold in December: MJ Pride update

Moose Jaw Pride operates a neighbourhood warming space in its Rainbow Retro Thrift Shop building.
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Moose Jaw Pride’s Rainbow Retro Thrift Shop operates the city’s only daytime warming space (photo by Jason G. Antonio)

Moose Jaw Pride operates a neighbourhood warming space in its Rainbow Retro Thrift Shop building. Taylor Carlson, executive director of Moose Jaw Pride, shared statistics collected during December.

MJ Pride’s purpose is to support and celebrate the LGBTQ2+ community in Moose Jaw. Carlson said that the warming space they have established in their building was born out of local need – not as an extension of their mandate. When the temperature began to drop and the snow began to fall, that need became an emergency.

In November, Carlson asked for help from anyone who could give it. MooseJawToday.com spoke with Carlson to get an update on the situation.

“The need is the same, that hasn’t changed,” Carlson said. “You know, in terms of folks in our community needing to access a phone, or find a warm place during the day.” What has gotten better is the help the warming space is getting – especially during the Christmas season.

Carlson explained that most of the supervision of the warming space is volunteers. Nurses, retirees, social workers, and just people wanting to help. Their largest operating expense is always food, mitts, and gloves. Generous community donations and hundreds of hours of volunteer time have allowed them to continue offering aid to their guests.

“A lot of individuals and small businesses and unions – I think like eight different unions – all reached out with either funding, or small donations. Winter jackets, food. Insane amounts of food. We really appreciate that, that’s made a really big difference for us,” Carlson said.

The numbers for the month of December

The most important statistic the warming space collects is what they call “aggregate days outside.” The volunteers ask each person who comes in every day where they spent the night. When someone says they spent the night outside, that answer is marked down as part of the aggregate.

Answers vary, and sometimes people don’t want to admit they were outside. Carlson also points out that the warming space doesn’t see every housing-insecure person in the city – so their numbers are low.

That being said, the aggregate total in December was 456 nights spent outside. “That’s a lot of folks,” Carlson said. They have sent several people to the hospital with frostbite.

Other statistics collected for December include:

Unique visits: 1112

Food requests honoured: 2145

Coffees served: 2645

Coldest day (with wind chill): -52

Active cycle products: 137 packs of five

Mitts: 83 pairs

Winter jackets: 72

Boots: 14 pairs

Tuques: 51

Scarves: 32

Socks: 167 pairs

Underwear: 32 pairs

Clothing vouchers: $1975

Sleeping bags: 7

Tents: 4

Phone calls to Social Services: 357

At-risk minor visits: 43

Naloxone kits distributed: 13 (plus one administered)

First aid administered: 14

Ambulance calls: 5

Volunteer hours: 487

There are also dozens of phone calls made and advice given with obtaining IDs, filing taxes, filling out Moose Jaw Housing Association forms, and 61 visits arranged with representatives of other community-based organizations (CBOs) such as John Howard Society. Carlson said the other CBOs in the city use the warming space to meet with their clients almost every day. 

“I’m OK with Moose Jaw Pride marshalling its resources,” Carlson said. “The unfortunate reality is that a lot of queer people and families experience these barriers. 40 per cent of unhoused youth in Saskatchewan are LGBTQ2+, right? So it’s something that, unfortunately, our community is familiar with… and we’ve had the fortune to extend our capacity to help fill this need in Moose Jaw.”

Ultimately, however, Carlson believes that the Saskatchewan Government and possibly even municipal governments should be attentive to the situation and find solutions.  “In the end, those are the only folks that are accountable to the people that live here. They can do that. They have the resources, and the capacity, and I think the talent to engage in this kind of work.”