Victoria homeless shelters brace for cold snap

An unseasonal cold snap is working its way through Greater Victoria, with overnight lows expected to hit -6 C on Friday

Unseasonably cold weather is pushing Greater Victoria’s shelters and charities into high gear this weekend as they help the homeless population battle the elements.

An unseasonal cold snap is working its way through Greater Victoria, with overnight lows expected to hit -6 C on Friday – seven degrees lower than the historical norm – and daytime highs of 1 C over the next several days.

“We’re open for emergency weather response, but when our beds fill up, we’re still allowing people to come in, warm up and get some coffee. We just don’t want to see people out in the cold,” said Don Evans, executive director at Our Place Society.

Our Place receives funding for 50 emergency beds during extreme weather, but demand for many of its services has been higher than anticipated since September, Evans said.

“We were $100,000 below our fundraising target in November,” he said.

Evans attributed some of that shortfall to donor fatigue, but said he’s seeing more people who are struggling to make ends meet.

“There are a lot of people maybe whose EI is running out, and are having a hard time finding work,” he said.

In addition to cash donations, Our Place is running low on warm clothing, blankets and sleeping bags. Food donations that help feed up to 1,500 people daily are increasing, but not enough to make up the funding shortfall, Evans said.

B.C. Housing’s extreme weather response program provides funding for 155 temporary shelter spaces when temperatures reach -2 C or a local emergency co-ordinator activates the program due to poor weather.

The Salvation Army’s downtown centre and St. John the Divine church also provide 70 combined emergency beds, while the Victoria Native Friendship Centre in Saanich and Sooke Baptist Church open their doors during extreme weather as well.