More winter shelters to come for Vancouver's homeless
The B.C. government has announced $1.5 million in funding for four new temporary winter emergency shelters for the homeless, but critics say the measures don't go far enough.
"This will ensure people have a safe, warm, dry place to sleep during this winter season," Solicitor General Rich Coleman said in a release announcing the new cold weather shelters.
The locations for the new sites have yet to be announced, but they will close for the season by the end of April.
The City of Vancouver is pitching in $500,000 for building operations, and Mayor Gregor Robertson is applauding the province's initiative.
"The investment they are making in difficult economic times will make a real difference for people who need it the most," he said.
But the opposition NDP says that what is really needed is a permanent urgent response centre, particularly to help the addicted and mentally ill living on the streets.
"It has been a recommendation of the Vancouver Police Department and of health officials and of people concerned with health and homelessness issues for years," health critic Adrian Dix said.
In the meantime, there are band-aid solutions to the cold, like dozens of donated sleeping bags from the Lotus Light Charity Society. They're being handed out by Vancouver police officers until they run out.
"This sleeping bag is really going to help -- totally going to help," Chanda Gauchir said after receiving hers.
Monday night was one of the coldest on record for the date, down to a very un-Vancouver minus 18 with the wind chill.
Nobody was feeling the deep freeze more than Vancouver's homeless.
Kevin McGlynn said he kept warm by "basically just walking around and shivering and stuff like that. Someone gave me a pair of thin gloves -- that helped a little bit."
The Vancouver Police Department says that existing shelters were only 75 per cent full on Monday night, so officers were out on the beat the next morning spreading the word that warm space is still available.
About 500 homeless people were unaware of or declined refuge last night, according to VPD estimates.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger