British Columbia

Extra shelter spaces open as Metro Vancouver faces cold snap

Staff at the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside said they have been restocking shelves with boots, jackets and other warm gear.

Cold temperatures and strong winds could bring wind chill values near -10 C to -15 C, says Environment Canada

The City of Vancouver has opened warming centres amid a cold snap. (CBC)

Extreme weather shelters have opened in parts of B.C. as a cold snap blankets much of the province in sub-zero temperatures.

Staff at the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside said they have been restocking shelves with boots, jackets and other warm gear.

"We also know that when the temperature goes down the need goes up," said Nicole Mucci with the Union Gospel Mission. "So with the weather continuing to be cold for the next few days we anticipate our shelter being completely full."

The centre reached its maximum capacity on Monday night, with all 96 beds accounted for. 

It will be sending out a mobile team on Tuesday night to hand out clothes and blankets to those spending the night on the streets, and to offer rides to people wanting to get to places with space available.

The City of Vancouver says 114 additional shelter beds and another 101 spots at warming centres are available.

Warming centres are also open in Victoria. 

Bruk Melles with the City of Vancouver says the city has already opened up emergency warming centres more days this year than last year. 

City warming centres, unlike shelters, don't offer access to a mat or a bed, but can provide respite from the elements overnight, according to staff.

Advocates say while there's immediate need for these emergency spaces, they don't replace the need for long-term solutions 

"A lot of people are homeless and so we've really just got to get people housed in proper housing — safe, clean — so that they're not having to sleep out on the streets like this," said Sarah Blyth, executive director of the Overdose Prevention Society.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement saying Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Howe Sound is expected to see unusually cold temperatures and strong winds that could bring wind chill values near -10 C to -15 C Tuesday night and Wednesday night. Daytime temperatures will be moderate, but below seasonal normals.

Temperatures are expected to rise starting Thursday. 

With files from Isabelle Raghem


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