The snow, wind and cold are making life even more difficult for homeless people across Vancouver Island. In Nanaimo, a warming centre is open to give a break from the cold for those living outside. But it’s still been a difficult week for those living in the elements.
Born and raised in Nanaimo, Bryan Rogers has been living on the streets for nearly seven years but this week has been one of the most difficult he has ever experienced.
The 38-year-old spent last night with close to twenty people huddled outside this downtown building.
“It’s really hard. It’s really cold,” said Rogers.
“My body isn’t built for the cold very well.”
With temperatures below freezing most of this week the city of Nanaimo, the Salvation Army and the 7-10 club teamed up to open a warm space between twelve and four each afternoon.
“Here the dampness gets into your bones along with the cold and this is unusual for Vancouver Island so we all want to step forward and do what we can,” said Gord Fuller with the Nanaimo 7-10 Club Society.
The warming centre helped 100 people in the first two days it was open.
“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for the homeless and even like people who are just wanting to become part of the community and feel accepted somewhere,” said Sage Morgan, a Nanaimo resident who warmed up at the centre Wednesday.
Nanaimo’s overnight shelters have been full. With temperatures dropping as low as minus 9 a few have been accommodating extras even though not everyone gets a cot.
“Who wants to be responsible for someone dying in this situation and that’s a distinct possibility sadly,” said Fuller.
The other shelters have also been at capacity.
“We’ve been full. Nobody wants to give up their beds and I don’t blame them. People are wet and cold and tired. It’s hard work walking down those sidewalks covered in snow,” said Kevan Griffith.
Rogers says he just wants a safe warm place to sleep.
He also asks that people give the homeless compassion.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover cause you never know why people are out here cause a lot of people out here are really good people. Their quality of life has rapidly deteriorated because of the situation they’re in.”
But until there’s more housing Rogers, along with far too many others, will be sleeping outside in the cold.
Victoria’s extreme weather protocol was enacted earlier this week to also help the homeless.