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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
October 27, 2016
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Faculty of Science

Study: people experiencing homelessness among most vulnerable to climate change

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Nov 16/10| For Immediate Release


Dr. Manuel Riemer, Professor, Psychology
Wilfrid Laurier University
519-884-0710 ext. 2982 or


Dr. Johanna Wandel, Assistant Professor, Human Geography
University of Waterloo
519-888-4567 ext. 38669 or

WATERLOO – Results of a study conducted by Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo researchers suggest that those experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable in Canada to the effects of global climate change

A public workshop on Nov. 29 will examine the implications of the study’s findings for Waterloo Region. A second workshop on Dec. 6 will focus on long-term planning for Regional Municipality of Waterloo strategies. 

“Right now we have a window of opportunity to prepare for the expected changes to avoid human catastrophes in the future,” said Manuel Riemer, co-principal investigator and psychology professor at Laurier. 

A team of university-based and peer researchers conducted the study, led by Riemer and Johanna Wandel, co-principal investigator and assistant professor of human geography at the University of Waterloo. The team interviewed 48 people experiencing homelessness in Waterloo Region. Participants discussed how they typically deal with the challenges of severe weather. Interview results were then linked to southern Ontario climate data and models estimating climate changes for the region over the next few decades. 

“Having appropriate gear, including good shoes, rain ponchos and tents, as well as safe spaces to store gear are key factors in dealing with weather that will increasingly become more extreme,” said Wandel. “Predicted climate changes include severe rain storms, sludge from melting snow, and a significant increase in the number of extremely hot days.” 

Researchers say staying hydrated on hot days is a challenge since most public water fountains in the region have been removed. They were surprised to discover that for those who experience homelessness, summer also brings struggles with extreme cold. 

“I would have sworn that in the summertime you would be fine at night,” said Wes, a study participant. “I nearly got hypothermia one August night…I had no blankets, I was sleeping on a piece of cardboard…and I was dizzy and completely disoriented.” 

A partner in the study, the Region of Waterloo’s Social Planning, Policy and Program Administration division says it is committed to including study findings in its long-term homelessness-to-housing stability strategy planning. 

The Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 public workshops will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Victoria Park Pavilion in Kitchener. To register, contact Manuel Riemer at To view the community report, visit:   


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