ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) – With the mercury dropping significantly this week, we’re all bundling up when heading outside.
But for homeless people in the Fraser Valley, this cold snap brings more serious concerns.
There are two major problems in the view of Ward Draper with The 5 and 2 Ministries in Abbotsford.
He says there’s only enough overnight shelter space for about half of the community’s homeless population — and there’s also the issue that during the day, generally the people staying there have to find somewhere else to go.
“I had one guy who left the hospital because he felt he was being ill treated,” says Draper of a man he found recently on the street. “He was an older gentlemen in his late 60s and he just sat there crying because it’s so cold outside and he had nowhere to go.”
Draper is calling around to religious organizations to see if any of them are willing to provide additional emergency shelter space.
“We’re just trying to scramble to see if we can gather some more resources like funding for supplies and trying to find any churches or spaces in town that might consider being a warming space,” says Draper. “But no luck yet on that. My team has been going out in the evenings, myself as well, trying to catch who we can and pull them into our extreme weather shelter if they want to go.”
Draper says the homeless and housing crises in Abbotsford were already bad enough, but the arrival of COVID-19 is only putting more pressure on the supports that are there, with more people needing help due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.
Temperatures are expected to drop to well below seasonal — possibly hitting -10 degrees in some parts — this week as an arctic cold front is pushed through the region. The region could see record lows by Thursday and Friday.
The Union Gospel Mission on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has also expressed concern for the homeless, saying there are far fewer spaces available in shelters than there are people who need them.
The UGM also notes how cold snaps such as these can bring to light the wider issue around housing on the Lower Mainland, adding more permanent spaces and supports are desperately needed.
-With files from Bethlehem Mariam and Hana Mae Nassar