Vancouver’s cold weather shelters are filling up fast ahead of the snowfall predicted for Monday.
Environment Canada reports a 60 per cent chance of snow late Sunday and into Monday morning, when the mercury will hover around -2C. The national weather forecaster says there is a 70 per cent chance the white stuff will continue to fall on Tuesday as the high reaches zero.
That follows the frigid weather that frosted the city last week, when temperatures dropped to -10C in Vancouver.
Coun. Kerry Jang said those temperatures, coupled with the work of outreach teams, are responsible for the record occupancy rates at the city’s two 24/7 HEAT shelters in Yaletown and Mount Pleasant.
“It filled up before lunch,” said Jang about the Mount Pleasant shelter, which opened its doors last week and will remain open until the end of April.
The two shelter’s 75 beds may not be enough to accommodate the city’s 273 unsheltered homeless, but Jang said staff work to find a spot at another shelter for anyone who comes in.
When temperatures dip below freezing, emergency shelters open up in church basements and community centres, he added.
Despite the harsh weather, many of Vancouver’s homeless are reluctant to spend the night at one of these shelters.
“Some of these people they have mental illness. Some of them don’t like people,” Jang said. “They have their own variety of reasons.”
For those who prefer to stay outdoors, police and ambulance crews are distributing care packages that include blankets, sleeping bags, toques and gloves.
Jang said a lot of homeless people are very experienced at living outdoors in cold weather and build tents.
However, he acknowledged this practice can be dangerous.
In 2008, a woman died after a candle she was using for heat caused a fire in her makeshift shelter. It was the second such death that year.