Overnight warming centres open in Victoria as temperatures plunge

Overnight warming centres open in Victoria as temperatures plunge
Overnight warming shelters have opened in Victoria as the city endures freezing temperatures.

With Arctic winds causing temperatures to plunge to nearly -20 C in Victoria on Monday, many of the city’s most vulnerable populations are at extreme risk.

Fortunately, following months of staff shortages and shelters hitting capacity, Victoria’s street community will have options tonight when it comes to finding a place to get out of the freezing cold.

That’s because the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness has activated their Extreme Weather Response Plan after temperatures hit below freezing, giving the green light to open overnight warming centres.

“We want people to know there’s a place to go, so having the warming centre available this evening hopefully is going to alleviate a lot of pressure on other service providers,” says Nina Grossman, the coalition’s extreme weather response coordinator for Greater Victoria.

The concern now is the longer this cold snap lasts, the more pressure it will put on staff and capacity.

“As we know right now we’re full and the night before we were full, so the numbers seem to be growing,” says Patricia Mamic, the Public Affairs Director with The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army A.R.C. is one of the shelters part of the response plan and to this point has been the only one open overnight, and their 30 mats are no longer enough.

Now, the coalition is opening the James Bay United Church on Michigan Street at 8 p.m. Monday. For youth, the Out of The Rain shelter will also be opening.

Our Place, which is not a part of the response plan says staffing has been tough for them as well but fortunately they’ve been able to remain open 24/7.

“Because of COVID, those of us who provide shelter 365 days a year have had to reduce the amount of people we can have in our night and our day shelter. So, to have the community step up to organize for additional space, particularly at this time, and this cold snap, is wonderful,” says Julian Daly, the CEO of Our Place Society.

For the coalition, it’s a situation that’s being assessed daily but they hope to be able to provide the staff for these warming centres until the cold snap is over.

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Hannah LepineHannah Lepine

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