City of Vancouver opens warming shelters at 3 community centres

A homeless man sleeps in a doorway in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Dec.19, 2016.
A homeless man sleeps in a doorway in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Dec.19, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The City of Vancouver opened temporary warming shelters for homeless people on Wednesday due to the cold weather.

Warming shelters at Britannia Community Centre, Carnegie Community Centre and West End Community Centre in Vancouver have opened their doors as temperatures and wind chill drop below -5 degrees Celsius.

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“The warming centres came up last winter, sometime around mid-December, when suddenly temperatures plummeted,” said Ethel Whitty, city’s director of homelessness services.

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“And we all became very nervous about what was going to happen to folks on the street when there weren’t enough shelters for everyone.”

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As we get closer to the New Year, temperatures may continue to drop, said Whitty.

“In the next couple of weeks it could go as low as feels like -12. So we all I think have to be aware of our fellow citizens and try to do what we can to support them.”

READ MORE: Because of Marpole protesters, homeless people may spend winter out in the cold: city

This is the second year that the City has worked with community centres to open emergency warming shelters. The service began impromptu in late 2016 as a result of unusually cold winter weather.

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Last year, questions of safety came up when a child at one of the centres found a discarded needle.

WATCH: Creekside emergency warming centre closes

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Creekside emergency warming centre closes – Jan 10, 2017

“There’s no way to be sure at any given time that there won’t be a needle found in a community centre or a playground,” said Whitty.

She said there will be more staff this year to make sure the centres are clean by the time they open to the public, noting they are aware drug use is a common occurrence as the city battles with the overdose crisis.

READ MORE: City of Vancouver to close Creekside Community Centre warming centre

 The emergency shelters will stay open until at least December 27, but depending on weather, the shelters may stay open until the New Year.

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READ MORE: B.C. will get lots of snow this winter but Metro Vancouver won’t be hit hard like last year

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