Emergency warming centre opening in North Cowichan as temperatures dip

Emergency warming centre opening in North Cowichan as temperatures dip
Cowichan Community Centre file photo.

With temperatures expected to dip below two degrees Celsius Tuesday night, an emergency warming centre is opening in North Cowichan.

The warming centre will be open starting Dec. 12 for a 12-hour period, from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., at Heritage Hall in the Cowichan Community Centre on James Street, according to the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD).

It says the warming centre, located on the second floor of the community centre, supplements other overnight shelters available to the unhoused population.

There will be a capacity for 20 spaces, “based on staff ratios determined by the Lookout Housing and Health Society, who have been contracted to manage the centre,” the district said in a news release Tuesday.

There will be a 20-foot storage container so people can store excess personal belongings, and Lookout staff will also be on site, along with additional security during the full 12 hours of operation.

RCMP will also have an increased presence on site, and the CVRD says warming centre users won’t be able to access other areas of the community centre.

This location is a first for the warming centre.

In November, Duncan council voted 4-3 against opening a warming centre at St. Andrew’s Church, where it operated last year. Weeks later, advocates told CHEK News they were worried for the unhoused because of the lack of shelter space. A pastor at St. Andrews said the centre there housed about 400 people in 2022.

The district then announced the new location on Dec. 1.

It will only be activated when temperatures fall to two degrees or below, coupled with high wind, rain or snow, and operates from Dec. 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024.

The CVRD says it will post the opening status of the warming centre to the Emergency Management Cowichan website by 1 p.m. on the day of activation.

READ 2022 STORY: Community believes cold weather played role in homeless persons’ death in Duncan

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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