Despite an organization created in Nanaimo to better prepare for extreme weather shelters, critics say the city is no further ahead than it was last year.
This past week, a group tasked and funded by the city called the Nanaimo System Planning Organization that was set up last spring to come up with a sheltering plan for winter made its presentation to a council committee.
Those in attendance weren’t impressed with what they heard.
“Wait until people are about to freeze to death and then hope that the provincial emergency funds come through, and the whole point of setting up this arms length city organization was to get ahead of this,” said Collen Middleton.
Nanaimo’s mayor, who wasn’t at the meeting because of a medical appointment for his wife, says it wasn’t a happy meeting for council.
“I certainly sense frustration from the general public and from council about the concerns that were raised during the meeting around, I will call it, an apparent lack of apparent preparation if you will. You know, winter rolls around every year,” said Leonard Krog.
The Nanaimo Systems Planning Organization did not respond to a request for an interview Friday.
The BC Greens say the B.C. government should fund weather shelters year round.
“It’s really hard for local communities to come up with the spaces and the staff for those shelters in extreme weather, and the reality is when it’s five above and pouring rain that doesn’t trigger an emergency weather shelter from the provincial government, and people are really suffering,” said BC Greens Leader Sonia Fursteneau.
BC Housing says it’s providing funds for 63 shelter spaces in Nanaimo, up from 50 last year, including 30 spaces in extreme weather shelters that are activated when a community issues an extreme weather alert. They say more may open later in the season as sites are confirmed. In a news release sent out Friday it says it’s trying to convert more spaces into permanent shelters across B.C.
Craig Kambeitz has found himself sleeping outside some nights recently, including Thursday night when temperatures dipped to near freezing.
“I’m frozen. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, that’s why I’m trying to figure things out right now,” he said. “I don’t know because the tent that I had I guess the bylaw took it.”
Kambeitz says he just hopes there are enough spaces for everyone as sleeping outside in this weather isn’t just miserable, it’s dangerous.