Shelters open in Metro Vancouver as temperatures drop
CTV British Columbia
Published Sunday, December 30, 2012 12:30PM PST
Last Updated Sunday, December 30, 2012 6:22PM PST
A dip in temperatures has prompted the City of Vancouver to issue an Extreme Weather Alert and to open designated shelters for the homeless.
The alert was issued on Saturday, and continued through the weekend. Temperatures dipped to zero degrees Celsius on Sunday morning, and a high of four degrees was expected throughout the day, according to Environment Canada.
The city says The Gathering Place on 609 Helmecken Street can house 40 people, while the Union Gospel Mission on 601 East Hastings Street, which currently has 72 shelter beds, can add 20 more spaces for men if needed. Catholic Charities, Covenant House, and St. Mark’s Extreme Weather Shelter were also opened.
However, none of the extra 20 beds at Union Gospel Mission were used on Saturday night.
John Oakley used to be homeless and now works at Union Gospel Mission. He says there are many reasons why some people won’t use the shelters.
“You also end up getting to a lonely place where you like to be isolated,” he said. “And if you were to come to a shelter, you’re going to be sleeping with a bunch of people and you don’t want to have people around you.”
Shelters at Burnaby and Surrey were also opened on the weekend due to the cold. In Surrey, 24 people stayed at the Surrey Urban Mission.
However, Surrey Urban Mission may be homeless itself in just a few weeks, as the property where The Mission is located has been sold. The Mission not only provides emergency shelter, it also has volunteers who serve about 1,400 meals a week.
Executive Director Jonquil Hallgate says there had been a few possibilities for new locations over the past 11 months, but all had fallen through. The Mission now has 26 days left to find a new home.
“It’s pretty distressing being in position of realizing that in a few weeks, the services that we've worked really hard for people in need might not be available because there's not anyone else in the community to pick up the slack,” she said.
With files from CTV British Columbia's Michele Brunoro