Victoria homeless struggle to stay warm in freezing weather

Victoria homeless struggle to stay warm in freezing weather
WatchThe freezing temperatures due to the arctic chill are taking a toll on the homeless in Victoria. Tess van Straaten takes a look.

Clay Raymond lays down flattened banana boxes and piles it high with blankets as the homeless in Victoria struggle to stay warm in freezing temperatures.

“This tarp is a life-saver,” says Raymond. “It’s life, literally.”

Raymond’s been homeless for three years.

With limited options, he had to sleep on the street last night in bone-chilling cold, enduring temperatures almost 10 degrees below normal and double-digit windchill readings.

“It’s cold, it’s wind, it’s sleet — it’s a nasty environment,” Raymond says. “You’re just not equipped for it.”

Extra shelter beds have been added but in weather like this, they fill up fast.

“People are really struggling because we don’t have enough shelter space for everybody,” explains Grant McKenzie of Our Place Society. “When we fill up and we fill up immediately, we have transportation to take people to other shelters and they were all full last night.”

Victoria’s Extreme Weather Protocol has been in place for several days now.

It’s usually activated for wet and windy weather.

But with a snowfall warning in effect and more frigid temperatures ahead, conditions are expected to get even worse.

B.C. has already set a new record for electricity usage.

More than 10,300 megawatts were consumed in just one hour on Monday — the most ever.

“We know when we hit these cold levels that usage is going to increase quite a lot, especially on Vancouver Island where there’s less natural gas and more baseboard heat,” says BC Hydro’s Ted Olynk.

For people who have nowhere warm to go, Our Place is making an urgent appeal for gloves.

“The community is always fantastic when we put out a call,” McKenzie says. “People really want to help and bringing in new or used gloves is an easy way to do that.”

The front desk at Our Place is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for anyone who might want to drop off a donation.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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