Atmospheric river forecast sparks calls to find room for homeless

Atmospheric river forecast sparks calls to find room for homeless
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WatchWith an atmospheric river on its way, calls grow to find shelter for Victoria's homeless as the number of shelter beds falls short of demand. Mary Griffin has more.

The forecasted atmospheric river is still in the distance, and the sun is out.

While the sidewalks are dry, tents and people fill up the space along the 900-block of Pandora.

Environment Canada is forecasting an atmospheric river this weekend, meaning significant rain on the south coast.

Katherine Edwards spent Thursday night sleeping outdoors, with little to protect her from the elements.

“I have an umbrella that I used with this rain jacket and it actually just made it work to wrap around my body.”

The Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Response Plan coordinates the region’s overnight shelters in the event of extreme and/or dangerous weather conditions.

Once it kicks into place, dozens of additional shelter spaces are opened up.

But despite the predicted atmospheric river beginning Saturday night, there are no plans to open up more shelter space.

Grant Mckenzie, director of communications, Our Place Society said there are just not enough shelter beds to meet the demand.

“I don’t think anybody should be out in a park, or on the sidewalk, or in a tent. There should be a shelter bed, and housing available for everybody.”

Pelted by rain, this is the reality for hundreds of people living on the streets in Victoria. With just thirty shelter beds available at the Our Place shelter, it fills up every night.

Mckenzie said people looking for a dry place once the rain starts, will have to look elsewhere.

“You’re talking about hundreds of people. I mean, there are lots of people who hide away, behind bushes, doorways. Things like that.”

READ: Daytime, overnight shelters available as cold weather prompts alert in Victoria

The City of Victoria is monitoring the weather and may respond if conditions deteriorate.

But unless temperatures fall to near zero, with rainfall that makes it difficult or impossible for the homeless population to remain dry, people like Edwards will be left out in the cold.

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Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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