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‘Brutal’ weather has Sidney, North Saanich police checking on the unhoused

Police and provincial authorities plan to check in on local homeless population later Wednesday
Strong winds out of the northeast caused snowdrifts in Sidney near Lochside Drive as low temperatures raised questions about the state of individuals dealing with homelessness. Local police and provincial authorities plan to build on earlier outreach efforts. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Officers with the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP Department and staff from the ministry of social development and poverty reduction started checking on individuals known to be homeless on Wednesday.

Cpl. Andres Sanchez made the announcement Wednesday as temperatures were hovering just below - 7 C with the windchill making it feel like -13 C as cold arctic air is flowing across the region. According to Environment Canada, northeast winds could be gusting up to 70 kilometres per hour with light snow falling across the region.

This outreach effort follows earlier efforts Wednesday morning and much of Tuesday.

Sanchez said Const. Tim Cosgrove, community policing officer with Sidney/North Saanich RCMP, already checked in with four individuals Wednesday morning. Sanchez and Cosgrove also checked in with five other individuals yesterday while spending most of their day handing out supplies, including sleeping bags, food, gift certificates and other items to individuals.

RELATED: B.C. communities shatter at least 15 record temperature lows amid stormy weather

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP have previously estimated the local homeless population at a dozen individuals. Sanchez said Wednesday morning police have accounted for all individuals based on available information, adding that some individuals may have already left for warming shelters in Saanich and in Victoria.

Sanchez said police want homeless individuals to find adequate shelters and stand ready to offer assistance, including transport to warming shelters outside the community, as Sidney lacks an official homeless shelter. According to Sanchez, one individual has sheltered overnight at a local church.

Lois Ainey, parish administrator for St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, which has been offering a mobile support service to homeless individuals as well as other supports directly out of the church, said the church has also handed out supplies such as winter clothing. Ainey said she has personally seen two individuals Wednesday morning. Ainey said the duo is doing OK under the circumstances.

“I’m surprised myself, because the weather is so brutal,” she said.

The church was planning to have a Christmas dinner for neighbours and friends of the church starting at 11:30 a.m., but postponed the event until early 2023.

Sidney’s acting chief administrative officer Andrew Hicik said the municipality does not have the capacity to operate warming centres, which are most needed through the night. “Community outreach staff and the RCMP will continue to help people experiencing homelessness reach warming centres in Victoria,” he said.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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