City of Vancouver extends warming centre operations amid cold snap

Click to play video: 'Emergency cold-weather services for the homeless'
Emergency cold-weather services for the homeless
WATCH: Emergency cold-weather services for the homeless – Dec 6, 2018

The City of Vancouver has extended the hours of its warming centres amid a spell of cold weather.

There are four locations for people to escape the cold: The Vancouver Public Library’s Central branch, the Britannia Community Centre and West End Community Centre and the Powell Street Getaway will all be open until Thursday.

The city says it may keep the shelters open beyond that if the cold weather remains.

It’s the third year for the program and dozens are using the resource, which offers people a place to stay overnight as well as food and drink.

READ MORE: Winter weather forecast: What Canadians can expect from coast to coast

“We don’t want people sleeping outside when it’s this cold so we’re opening extra spaces across the city to safeguard life,” Abi Bond, director of homelessness services with the City of Vancouver, said.

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“It’s really people’s choice about what they do, but our outreach teams are in regular contact trying to get people to take that next step to come inside.”

The city said up to 100 people used warming centres on any given night last year.

Anyone looking for shelter space can call 211 for assistance.

Jeremy Hunka of Union Gospel Mission said they are looking for donations of cold-weather items like jackets, boots and sweaters.

WATCH: Extreme weather shelters open amid plunging temperatures

“Those things can make a difference if you just don’t have anywhere to go at night,” he said.

In Surrey, nearly 70 extreme weather shelter spaces have been opened, but staff at the Surrey Urban Mission say they’re having to turn away 10 to 15 people each day.

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“There is not that much space for any of the guests to actually go to unfortunately, so we are in dire need of somewhere to just house some of our guests that we have during this extreme weather,” Romeo Kabanda of the Surrey Urban Mission said.

Homeless advocates in Burnaby have long called for warming shelters. Their message has been heard by the Mayor Mike Hurley and council, who voted unanimously to bring four warming shelters to the city.

“As a firefighter so many times we… saw the basic needs of people not being met and it’s kind of heartbreaking when you see people in our parks and public spaces with nowhere to go,” Hurley said.

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