Additional shelter spaces open in Victoria due to snow and cold temperatures

Additional shelter spaces open in Victoria due to snow and cold temperatures
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With Environment Canada issuing snow and cold weather warnings, shelter spaces in Victoria are being opened up for the homeless.

The weather agency issued the warning saying snow is expected today through to Sunday, and the cold weather is expected to last until the end of the year.

As part of the Extreme Weather Response, the Salvation Army will be operating an overnight shelter space with 30 mats at 525 Johnson Street. The City of Victoria will be operating a daytime warming centre at the James Bay United Church at 511 Michigan Street.

Nina Grossman, extreme weather response coordinator for the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness says she will be keeping an eye on the weather and adjusting if necessary.

“So far, we haven’t needed additional space overnight,” she said, noting the 30 mat spaces at the Salvation Army have so far been sufficient.

“We’re going to try and get the staff on to open other sites overnight so that there’s even more spaces, but they’re not really designed to be shelters. They’re not that kind of spaces, sleeping spaces, but they’re warm and they’re indoors and if we can provide a space for someone to go to stay safe and dry, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Patricia Mamic, spokesperson for the Salvation Army says they have made the shelter spaces available to provide a safe, warm space for anyone without shelter in these temperatures.

“The cold weather is especially hard on people living on the streets,” Mamic says. “Many of these individuals already deal with health conditions that can be worsened and even become fatal when the temperature drops drastically.”

The shelter at the Salvation Army does not allow pets or shopping carts and it will operate 8:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

The Salvation Army has been operating for a few nights recently due to the colder temperatures and Grossman says that, when open, it typically fills around 20 of its 30 beds.

Grossman notes the City of Victoria may be able to turn the warming centre into an overnight shelter if the Salvation Army space gets full, but it will depend on the city’s staffing capability.

As for the daytime warming centre, it will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Victoria Cool Aid Society is also making seven additional spaces available during the cold weather, though this is not part of the Extreme Weather Response.

A spokesperson for the society says they are increasing their capacity at the Rock Bay Landing shelter by these seven spaces, as well as providing a hygiene area from 12:30-3:30 p.m. daily.

The society will also be providing hats, gloves and scarves whenever possible.

Our Place Society says it has set up propane heaters in their courtyard, and their drop-in — which is open daily 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. — has limited space available. Both of these are at 919 Pandora Avenue.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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