The City of Victoria is funding a new daytime warming centre at 926 and 930 Pandora Ave.
The new centre opened on Feb. 1 and will be in operation until March 31.
Victoria says it’s funding the new warming centre in response to overcrowding at other facilities.
“We’ve been discussing the need for a daytime warming centre for months, it was raised, really, last fall,” said Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto.
“We’ve been working with a variety of agencies and non-profits to try and bring the details together, and it’s finally happened now,” she said Friday.
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In mid-January, when a cold snap swept most of B.C., extreme weather shelters were at or over capacity across the city.
One homeless person even told CHEK News that they rode the bus to avoid being stuck out in the cold.
“It makes you not want to be alive,” said Li, a Canadian Forces veteran who became homeless because her military benefit paperwork fell through the cracks.
“The frostbite creeps up so slowly, you lose interest in everything. You don’t even want to move,” she said on Jan. 15.
The city says the new warming centre is an attempt to respond to the demand for shelters in the area.
The new warming centre is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and is operated by local non-profit group SOLID.
While the Island’s coldest days appear to be behind us, Alto says it’s impossible to predict weather in Victoria.
“Getting [the centre] up and running now is going to offer some relief for the folks outside, whether it’s very, very cold from snow or whether it’s super wet, so I think it’s important we do as much as we can for as long as we can,” she said.
The city says it was SOLID that first approached the municipality to open the warming centre in late 2023.
“SOLID will work collaboratively with city bylaw officers, VicPD, the Victoria Fire Department and any city staff to maintain a lawful, orderly, safe and clean site,” said the city. “SOLID will also be responsible for providing custodial services and supplies.”
The municipality says it will cost approximately $218,000 to operate the warming centre for the next two months. Funding comes from the city’s emergency contingency fund.
With files from CHEK’s Kori Sidaway