Several Metro Vancouver cities have opened up extreme weather shelters for the homeless this week in response to the arrival of freezing overnight temperatures.
Rebecca Bell, coordinator of the Greater Vancouver Shelter Society, said shelters providing extra overnight spaces were opened this week in Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Langley and Maple Ridge.
“It’s earlier than normal,” she said, but added cold weather spaces were opened in the first week of November last year.
More than 600 additional spaces can be deployed across the region to meet extra demand during cold weather when local cities issue extreme weather alerts.
Extreme weather sites are often set up in churches or community centres using temporary mats and provide spaces over and above those available in regular homeless shelters.
As of Wednesday night, the extra spaces being offered across the region included 110 out of a maximum 135 in Surrey, 27 out of a maximum of 57 in Burnaby, 25 out of 45 on the North Shore, and all 30 spaces available in both Langley and New Westminster, 22 in Richmond, 20 in the Tri Cities and 15 in Maple Ridge.
Bell said openings change according to anticipated need and can vary across the region because of differences in local weather.
“The temperature varies across the Lower Mainland quite substantially,” she said.
Bell noted Port Coquitlam also has the Tri Cities Bridge Shelter, a cold wet weather shelter that’s run seasonally from October through March.
A total of 9,260 stays were recorded at Metro extreme weather shelters last winter.
For more information or a list of shelters across the region see http://gvss.ca.