If you live in Vancouver, then you know we are experiencing some very cold temperatures. You may wonder and worry what happens to the homeless folks in Vancouver when it gets colder than normal or the weather is extreme.
Vancouver has an Extreme Weather Response Program of which Covenant House Vancouver and many other service providers are a part of. The program issues an extreme weather alert for the homeless, and providers then go above and beyond to ensure no one has to be outside. In Vancouver, extreme beds generally open when temperatures are near zero with rainfall that makes it impossible to be dry, freezing rain, lots of snow, high winds or temperatures below -2 degrees. These types of beds can be opened by existing shelters with the help of volunteers and extra staff. They can also be operated by churches and community groups. They are often a mat on a floor and may not have food provided and have little support services. These beds are meant for crisis only and not meant to replace year round shelters or long-term housing.
Covenant House Vancouver has the ability to add an additional 12 cots to be used by youth during an extreme weather alert – this is in addition to our regular 54 bed shelter. We get support to do this from staff and volunteers when we are very short staffed, and everyone from around the agency, youth worker or not, pitches in to make sure that the beds can be open. Along with the extra beds, we provide our youth with warm and dry clothing, a hot dinner and breakfast. We also encourage the youth to come to our drop-in program the next day so our youth workers can help them find shelter or any other supports they need. Even if they are not ready to work on things, they can stay in the drop-in where it is warm, dry and safe.
As you can imagine, it takes more food, clothing and staffing to ensure that our youth are warm and safe during extreme weather, and more support is always welcome.
To learn more about the Extreme Weather Response or the Greater Vancouver Shelter Strategy please click here.
Here is an article about the extreme weather and homeless by The Vancouver Sun.