One of the heaviest one-day snowfalls to hit British Columbia’s south coast in years has prompted cancellations or delays, power outages and other inconveniences, but advocates for the impoverished or homeless say the storm also has the potential to be life-threatening.
Nicole Mucci with the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver says the snow and bitter cold could force those in poverty to forgo food in favour of heat or a pair of boots that doesn’t leak.
For those living in tents or without any shelter, Mucci says there are even greater risks, ranging from hypothermia or frostbite to using candles or heaters inside tents.
She says no one was turned away from the mission’s 92-bed shelter Monday night as about 25 centimetres of snow began to blanket the region, but on most nights the only option is to hand out warm clothing or sleeping bags once the shelter reaches capacity.
The mission estimates more than 3,600 people across Metro Vancouver are homeless and many more live in precarious housing such as single rooms in rundown hotels.
Mucci says she braved the snow on her commute to work Tuesday but “can’t imagine” what it would be like to have no choice but to spend the entire day or night in the snow and cold.
“Somebody experiencing homelessness is going to see this snowfall in a very different way than some of the kids who get to stay home from daycare and build snowmen,” she says.
“The novelty, the joy a potentially white Christmas could bring is not the same, because it brings with it serious danger.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2022.