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Victoria shelter groups prepare for homeless as winter approaches

Victoria organizations are preparing to protect the city’s homeless and extremely poor through the winter.
Homeless people who sleep in the day, when it's warmer and safer, have access to shelter space where they can sit up all night.

Victoria organizations are preparing to protect the city’s homeless and extremely poor through the winter.

Extreme weather shelters have been expanded to serve rural areas in and around Sooke, said Jen Bacon, regional co-ordinator of the Extreme Weather Protocol.

“Members of that community asked to be involved in setting something up because there was a need in the area,” Bacon said. Sooke Baptist Church will offer 10 mats, in addition to the 365 available during the season’s most dangerous weather periods.

There will be a soup can drive for the new shelter next Saturday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Stick in the Mud, 6715 Eustace Rd.

Also new this year is a two-tiered approach to opening the shelters in bad weather. Instead of opening a few shelters at a time, all shelters will be open at partial capacity during extreme weather.

“This creates more of a diverse space for people who may feel more comfortable at certain places,” said Bacon.

The community program is seeking volunteers to help run its locations, heating stations and do outreach. Contact for more information.

The Out of the Rain youth shelter opened Oct. 15 for the winter season. Co-ordinator Jen Mortimer said while the mild weather has meant fewer youth than usual are using the beds so far, many are coming for meals.

Volunteers prepare hot meals for youth every night, dropping them off at one of the seven churches and community centres that donate space one night a week to host 30 youth (between the ages of 15 and 25) overnight. It is the only shelter program in the city that hosts youth.

“Youth tend to want to stay in their peer groups and the older ones find the adult shelters intimidating,” said Mortimer. “Having volunteers here is extremely important as the youth recognized they are accepted in the community and cared about.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or donating items such as warm clothing, sleeping bags, bus tickets or coffee cards can contact Mortimer at 250-884-3701 or

The organization is selling “Raise the Roof” toques for $10 at Beacon Services thrift store to raise funds for the program.

Jackie Cox-Ziegler, of the Mustard Seed food bank and drop-in centre, said the most-needed winter item is still good, clean socks. “We can never have enough,” said the director of administration, adding that clean underwear for men and women, sleeping bags and warm clothes are also needed.

The organization often gets plenty of food donations this time of year but they especially need high-protein items such as peanut butter and canned tuna, as well as winter root vegetables that keep.

She welcomed anyone interested in the Mustard Seed to attend a tour next Saturday at 2 p.m. at their facility at 625 Queens Ave.