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Emergency shelters open in Metro Vancouver as temperatures drop

Summary

'It is a crisis in Surrey,' councillor says of shelter-bed shortage

Brenda Locke wants city to open facilities as emergency shelters

Burnaby, Vancouver, Tri-Cities also opening cold-weather shelters

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Surrey is “in a crisis” as it scrambles to find space for homeless people to sleep during an early cold snap, according to Coun. Brenda Locke.

“We do not have enough emergency response spaces in Surrey. We’re desperately trying to get those open and desperately trying to find additional spaces,” she said.

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Locke said she will urge City of Surrey staff to open some of the municipality’s recreation centres and arenas starting Monday night, when temperatures are forecasted to drop to 3 C.

The city has 55 to 60 shelter beds, when it needs 200, Locke said.

“We have a very large homelessness problem in Surrey, but it’s hidden because there’s just so much vast space that people are located in,” she said. “They’re in our parks, they’re in our green spaces and they’re on the street. It is a crisis in Surrey, for sure.”

A homelessness task force representing the Tri-Cities municipalities and the province is developing a plan to open its own emergency shelters, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said.

“For those who don’t have a roof over their head, it’s important there be a place where they can get that,” he said.

West said the province is providing guidance to shelter operators, including some churches with smaller spaces, on how to keep the people they serve safe from the coronavirus. He said that might mean increasing spacing and reducing capacity.

The City of Vancouver opened two emergency shelters over the weekend, providing seven mats at the Directions Youth Services Centre on Burrard Street for people 24 and younger and 32 mats at the Evelyne Saller Centre on Alexander Street.

Burnaby has a 24-hour Emergency Response Centre at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex with 27 mats. Lookout Society also opens a 27-bed extreme weather shelter at Westminster Bible Chapel when an alert is declared by the city.

The 2020 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count, conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the economy, found 2,095 homeless people in the region, 547 of whom were living on the street.