British Columbia

Almost 2,000 visits to Vancouver warming centres as vulnerable people look to escape cold

"It really helps a lot because it's cold out," says Steve Murray after spending the night at the Creekside Community Centre. "I was sleeping on the ground for a couple of hours, I couldn't handle it."

City has opened 4 community centres overnight since Dec. 17 to provide extra shelter

One of the centre's homeless patrons says it's good having a warm place that's quiet and secure where you can also get coffee and a shower. (GP Mendoza/CBC)

Steve Murray has been using Vancouver's warming centres since they opened in mid-December to stay out of the freezing temperatures gripping the region this winter.

"It really helps a lot because it's cold out," he said early Saturday morning after spending the night at the Creekside Community Centre.

"I was sleeping on the ground for a couple of hours. I couldn't handle it."

Steve Murray says he has been using the City of Vancouver's warming centres since they opened on Dec. 17, 2016 on unusually cold, rainy or snowy nights. "They're quiet, they have security, coffee ... there was even cake," he says. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Murray describes the warming centres as quiet and secure and says he appreciates the coffee and ability to use the centres' showers.

He also says he's seen more people using them to keep warm.

As of Friday, the city said there have been more than 1,860 visits since the warming centres opened Dec. 17. 

When they began, Mayor Gregor Robertson said permanent and temporary shelters in Vancouver were at capacity and turning people away so the city was stepping up to "help our most vulnerable residents who have no place to go."

The four warming centres will again be open Saturday night, starting at 9 p.m. PT:

  • Britannia Community Centre / Venables (The Hall) — 1661 Napier St. / 1739 Venables St.
  • Creekside Community Centre — 1 Athletes Way.
  • West End Community Centre — 870 Denman St.
  • Kitsilano Community Centre — 2690 Larch St.

On Saturday, Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for Metro Vancouver, which says there could be a couple of centimetres of snow on the ground by Sunday morning.

Murray says it's been a tough winter for those who don't have appropriate housing and face the cold outside at night.

City of Vancouver warming centres offer a place to sleep, coffee and hot showers. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

"It's like ... it goes right through the cardboard and everything you lay onto because of the ice and everything. It's just like freezing cold," he said, adding many people passing by have helped by providing hot chocolate or other amenities. 

According to the city, there are 956 permanent shelter beds in Vancouver and up to 429 additional beds can be made available. 

Anyone looking for space can call 211 to see where one may be available. 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said 1,860 people have used City of Vancouver warming centres since Dec. 17, 2016. In fact there have been more than 1,860 visits.
    Jan 08, 2017 2:21 PM PT

now