White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter open ‘until further notice’

Overnight guests at Star of the Sea Hall expected to increase as temperature dips

With temperatures forecast to dip below zero – and stay there for the next few days, at least – volunteers with White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter hit the streets Tuesday morning to share word of a warm place to hunker down.

Shelter co-ordinator Joan McMurtry said a pair of volunteers were spending “a couple of hours” posting advisories around town that the shelter will be open “until further notice,” effective tonight (Nov. 26).

The notices, aimed at reaching the community’s most vulnerable, share the shelter’s location and hours: 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. at Star of the Sea Hall (15262 Pacific Ave.).

“We’ve got a great system,” McMurtry said of the concerted effort that kicks in whenever extreme-weather events are forecast or temperatures dip close to zero.

Operated by Peninsula United Church, the shelter has already opened “four or five” times this season, with as many as 17 people coming to stay.

McMurtry expects those numbers to increase in the days ahead.

“This week, I think we’ll begin to build,” she said. “It’s the coldest that we’ve had.”

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement on Monday afternoon advising of the impending mercury drop.

READ MORE: Subzero temperatures coming to Lower Mainland

A rush of Arctic air is expected to hit the coast by Wednesday night, pushing temperatures to -5 and -10C as the week goes on. In White Rock, the chilliest night of the week is to be Saturday, at -5C.

Tonight (Tuesday), the low is forecast to be 4C; Wednesday is to dip to zero; followed by -3C on Thursday, and -4C on Friday.

The White Rock shelter has room for 25. While it exceeded capacity on a couple of the 90 nights it opened last season, McMurtry said there are no plans to add beds.

READ MORE: Health of White Rock shelter guests highlight need for ‘other remedies’ to homelessness: officials

The volunteer roster is also at a comfortable level, she said, with 60 people signed on to help – including about 15 new faces – as well as a waitlist.

“It’s a very good problem to have,” she said of the community’s interest in helping.

“People are very genuine and very concerned about what’s happening in the community.”

For more information about the shelter, email McMurtry at jkmcm@telus.net or call 604-531-2979.

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