As temperatures drop in Vancouver, charities are experiencing the lowest donations in years, leaving many of the city's neediest out in the cold.

Michael Shooks moved here two years ago from the Maritimes hoping for a better life. But like many in Vancouver, he finds himself on the verge of being homeless.

"I came here thinking, you know, the grass is greener on the other side. But it's a struggle to get at it," he said. "It's up and down. You never know from one day to the next what you're going to be doing, where you're going to go."

But that hasn't stopped him from giving back.

"The Salvation Army -- god bless them all -- is there to help people like me in these situations. And I thought, well I may as well do my little good deed for the day," he said.

But Shooks is the exception. Fewer Canadians are giving to charity. Over the last two years donations are down about $1 billion. The number of donors is the lowest it has been since 2002.

Shelters are suffering as a result and have had to turn people away.

"We turned away about five last night," Bill Briscall of Raincity Housing and Support Society said.

Every night people are turned away. All 160 heat shelter beds in Vancouver are full.

Derek Weiss, spokesman for the Union Gospel Mission, is worried they won't have enough money to open their new building at full capacity.

"We have a broad base of support and many of those people are the working poor just trying to help out, and those people are being squeezed," he said.

Some blame the economy but others say that basic human compassion is to blame.

"It's kind of like pain. Until you feel it you can't really empathize with someone else," Shooks said.

How to help

Donate to Raincity housing here.


Phone: 604-215-5991

Or visit one of these shelters in need:

Triage Shelter: 707 Powell Street

Broadway Shelter: 677 East Broadway (alley entrance)

Howe Shelter: 1442 Howe Street (alley entrance)

Cardero Shelter: 747 Cardero Street

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Norma Reid