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Advocates applaud opening of four warming stations in Burnaby

Burnaby’s new council opening warming centres for homeless
WATCH: Burnaby's new council opening warming centres for homeless

For the first time in Burnaby, the homeless have a city-run shelter from the cold.

Four warming centres are opening up in Burnaby. After 13 years of advocating, Carol-Ann Flanagan with the Society To End Homelessness in Burnaby feels their voice is being heard.

“People have been asking for this for a long time,” Flanagan said.

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“This is the first step and an important step. And the fact they’re going to be open seven days a week until March — that’s a big, big thing.”

The warming centre at Swangard Stadium is the latest to open. On its first night, five people slept there; six individuals were there the following night.

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A fourth location will be opening in the days ahead, the city said Friday.

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“My last two years on the fire department, we went to many calls where people were not doing well because they were living on the street,” Mike Hurley, Burnaby’s mayor said.

“It was very heartbreaking to see our city in that position, to see our city not stepping up to take care of the most vulnerable. So that was very important for me when I became mayor.”

Advocates are now pushing for a homeless shelter.

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There are also plans for a 52-unit supportive housing facility here on Norland Street, a partnership between the city and province.

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Flanagan said Burnaby’s exact homeless population is unknown. Estimates range from 49 to 250.

Regardless, she said the need is becoming increasingly obvious.

“We’re actually the fourth largest population of homelessness, 32 per cent are over 55,” Flanagan said.

“We need housing that people can afford.”