Out of the Cold

It’s that time of year again, when the temperatures drop, snow falls like a fluffy white invasion from the sky, and everyone has to bundle up if they want to even think of venturing outside.

At least, if they have something to bundle up into.

When I was a teenager, lots of kids would come to school in the heart of winter wearing light jackets, no toques, and no mittens. It was considered “cool” – and I guess it was, in more ways than one. Bundling up was for geeks (or, “nerds” as we said back then). Admittedly, I was a nerd.

I often felt silly or embarrassed that my mother made me go to school decked out like a northern explorer. Now I don my blizzard apparel willingly. Not always joyfully, but with an attitude of gratitude for not having to brave walking outside in clothing that is not going to be warm and protective.

A good winter coat, let alone sweaters, scarves, toques, mittens, and boots, don’t come cheaply for people who are low income. Fortunately, most second hand clothing shops carry a selection of reasonably priced winter garments, but when one is really down and out even a small price tag might be too big for the pocketbook.

Like almost anything having to do with poverty, when it comes to a lack of warm winter clothing, children are often the most deprived. In the years when the little ones are growing like weeds, keeping a steady wardrobe flow for the kids can be draining for a parent(s), no matter what the season. Coats for Kids and Families, a service of the United Way, takes donations of gently used winter coats at Page the Cleaner outlets. Last year, almost 16,000 coats were donated.

And with energy costs being what they are, home can be a cold place. Keep the thermostat down, wear clothing in layers, and make sure all windows and doors close and are sealed properly. That is, assuming “home” is indeed a physical location with four walls, doors, windows, all those good things, and not a shelter at night and street corner during the day.

Cold is simply a fact of life in Edmonton. But being able to keep warm is something that lower income folks cannot take for granted. From now until the spring, it’s survival mode. And that is a cold, hard fact.

Paula E. Kirman is a freelance writer, web designer, photographer, and lifelong Edmonton resident. She much prefers the summer.