VANCOUVER — The City of Vancouver has issued an extreme weather alert, freeing shelter beds for the homeless in the event temperatures drop below zero this week.
The alert has activated emergency shelters citywide as well as bringing into effect measures authorized by the Assistance to Shelter Act, which enables police to direct homeless and other at-risk individuals to shelter facilities.
No similar alert has been issued in Victoria, where Environment Canada was forecasting a low of 1 Celsius overnight Sunday. As of Sunday evening, the agency’s seven-day forecast for the Victoria did not foresee the temperature dropping below zero, although lows of 1 C are forecast for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Victoria enacts its extreme weather response plan when conditions are deemed severe enough to threaten the life or health of people living on the street.
An emergency co-ordinator will enact the plan when temperatures reach –2 C or temperatures are near freezing and there is enough rainfall making it impossible for homeless people to stay dry. Such conditions as sleet, freezing rain, snow accumulation and sustained high winds are also taken into account.
When the Victoria plan is in operation, shelter capacity expands from 265 up to 370 emergency beds and mats.
Vancouver’s alert, issued Saturday morning, remained in effect late Sunday. A total of seven temporary shelters with nearly 250 beds and mats opened their doors overnight.
The chilly weather in Vancouver saw Union Gospel Mission at 601 East Hastings supply 20 additional beds for men if its regular 72 spaces filled up Sunday. At the Gathering Place at 609 Helmcken St., more than 40 people could be sheltered in its theatre space.
The extreme weather alert came on the heels of heightened anxiety about the availability of temporary shelter space for Vancouver’s homeless population.
— With a file by the Times Colonist
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