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Wintry weather putting a strain on some local shelters

Last Updated Dec 3, 2018 at 10:51 pm PDT

File Photo. (iStock Photo)

Some people were turned away from a shelter in Chilliwack Sunday night because it was already at capacity

City of Chilliwack to open new 24/7 warming centre with 45 beds

City of Vancouver says its shelters are at capacity, but it has contingency plans

LOWER MAINLAND (NEWS 1130) – With temperatures dropping below the freezing mark, it’s becoming harder to find enough space in local shelters.

On Tuesday, Chilliwack is set to open its new 24/7 warming centre with 45 beds. This comes after some people were turned away at a shelter Sunday night because it was already at capacity.

“They think they can handle between 80 and 100 folks during the day. That’s a welcome addition, with the onslaught of the cold weather coming in,” Mayor Ken Popove said.

“It gives people a place to go, where it’s warm. Give them a cup of coffee and get them off the streets.”

He says the well-being of homeless people is always a concern during the winter months.

“These are human beings,” Popove said. “They’re reaching out and we certainly want to be able to have a place for them … It’s an unfortunate thing, but we try to do the best we can.”

Popove is hoping new modular homes coming in the new year provide a more long-term solution.

RELATED: Local shelter increases rescue van patrols, widens reach as temperatures dip

Abi Bond with the City of Vancouver says there are currently about 1,200 spaces in shelters across the city and they are at capacity.

“They were full fairly soon after opening. We’ve also seen over the last few nights an extreme weather alert issued in Vancouver. That means we’re opening additional shelters again … We’re seeing four extra spaces open overnight over the last few nights, because of the drop in temperatures.”

Bond notes the spaces are open 24/7. “[That enables] people to come in. They’re able to stay in the shelter for the whole season, if that’s what they need.”

She says if it gets even colder, she says there are contingency plans.

“If the temperature continues to fall or continue to be low, then we’ll look to open some warming centres as well … When the temperature is at or feels like minus 5, we open additional kind of community centre space so that people can come inside and shelter from the cold.”

For Monday and Tuesday, the City is opening warming centres at four locations to take in people who would otherwise have to sleep in the streets. People can find shelter at the following spots, with possible extensions if temperatures stay low:

  • Britannia Community Centre – 1739 Venables Street
    • (Monday, Dec. 3, 10 p.m. – 8:30 a.m. and Tuesday, Dec. 4, 9 p.m. – 8:30 a.m.)
  • West End Community Centre – 870 Denman Street
    • (Monday, Dec. 3, and Tuesday, Dec. 4, 11 p.m. – 6 a.m.)
  • Powell Street Getaway – 528 Powell Street
    • (Monday, Dec. 3 and Tuesday, Dec. 4, 9 p.m. – 7 a.m.)
  • Vancouver Public Library – 350 West Georgia Street
    • (Tuesday, Dec. 4, 11 p.m. – 7 a.m.)