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Helping Metro Vancouver's homeless through the cold
While some Metro Vancouverites may be looking forward to waking up to a white Christmas, snow and plunging temperatures are not on the wish list for the city's homeless residents.
Volunteers at a Miracle on 135A Street set about making the damp and cold winter nights to come a little more bearable for Surrey's most vulnerable on Saturday. They handed out care packages filled with winter essentials.
"It's basically bringing Christmas, love and joy to the population down here," said homeless advocate Erin Schulte.
Janice, who's been living on the Surrey Strip for the past three weeks, opened up a brown paper gift bag topped with a candy cane to find hand warmers, a packed meal and thick athletic socks.
"It just made my Christmas," she said. "It's a miracle. I have not words for it."
Schulte says the hardest part of winter for many homeless residents is the damp.
"The minute anything gets wet, you're doomed," she said. "There's no way to dry it."
For the next week, overnight temperatures will dip below freezing and barely climb above zero during the day. Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement.
"We've got a cold arctic air mass over the coast right now," said Greg Pearce, a forecaster with Environment Canada. "We also have a weather system from the Pacific."
He said to expect snow on Christmas Eve to leave a couple of centimetres on the ground Christmas morning.
"We usually have a white Christmas every 10 years," he said.
While beautiful for some, that weather can be dangerous for those sleeping outside.
"The real danger is for people sleeping under bridges or in parks," said Jeremy Hunka with the Union Gospel Mission.
His organization on Hastings Street in Vancouver provides shelter beds for dozens of people, but not everyone can or will go inside. The mission has assembled special packs for people who will stay outside containing warm hats, gloves and even heat reflective tarps and blankets.
"We know that people have died in the cold in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley in previous years," he said. "One of the things we've been doing is giving out survival gear."
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure