Homelessness
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

With snow on the horizon, Victoria is preparing overnight extreme weather shelters

This time, the city is ready to bring people inside when temperatures drop below freezing

By Brishti Basu
December 16, 2022
Homelessness
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

With snow on the horizon, Victoria is preparing overnight extreme weather shelters

This time, the city is ready to bring people inside when temperatures drop below freezing

By Brishti Basu
Dec 16, 2022
Snow falling on the 900-block of Pandora Avenue in early November. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily
Snow falling on the 900-block of Pandora Avenue in early November. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily
Homelessness
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

With snow on the horizon, Victoria is preparing overnight extreme weather shelters

This time, the city is ready to bring people inside when temperatures drop below freezing

By Brishti Basu
December 16, 2022
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With snow on the horizon, Victoria is preparing overnight extreme weather shelters
Snow falling on the 900-block of Pandora Avenue in early November. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily

The City of Victoria and organizations that help homeless people are preparing for snow and colder temperatures by activating the Extreme Weather Response (EWR) as of Dec. 15.

BC Housing and City of Victoria representatives told Capital Daily that the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness (GVCEH) is officially in charge of the weather response, and has now hired a coordinator to run it.

This early response comes after a freak November snowstorm caught everyone off-guard and unprepared to shelter the dozens of people who needed to be indoors. At one point, there were warm indoor spaces available—but nobody told the homeless about them.

According to Modeste, there were around 20 tents along Pandora Avenue alone, full of people struggling to stay warm on the night of Nov. 7.

“They battled all night to keep their tarps on,” she said at the time. “I heard people wailing and crying because they were just so done. The wind was so brutal, nobody could stay warm.”

The situation prompted city council to put EWR on their agenda right away and sort out who organizes and who funds extra indoor spaces during inclement weather. They expect that the EWR will need to be activated 10 to 15 nights this year, to be funded by BC Housing through a new agreement.

BC Housing will now pay for overnight warming centres for 12 hours at a stretch—including staffing, volunteer appreciation, cleaning, food, bus tickets, laundry, and first aid supplies—while the city is responsible for any capital or start-up costs (like supplying cots, mats, and blankets), as well as insurance, administration and rental or lease fees.

Unlike last time, the emergency measures were activated on Thursday morning, days before snow was expected to fall. The GVCEH noted on their website that they did so because of “forecast temperatures of lows of zero degrees overnight.”

They also communicated the availability of these warm spaces to those who could spread the word. The news that 30 mats at the Salvation Army Addictions and Rehabilitation Centre on Johnson Street and 30 more at St. John the Divine Church on Quadra would be open from 8pm to 8am arrived via email and social media to peer advocates on the ground, like Millie Modeste. (The city has switched up which church they run their warming centre in; it’s now closer to other service providers. Last month, it was run at the James Bay United Church on Michigan Street.)

Modeste and others, like Nikki Ottosen, are also collecting donations—things like blankets, tents, winter clothes—in preparation for five days of snowfall starting Sunday.

“I put six tents out on the street,” Modeste said. “They’re smaller tents…we’re making sure that we don’t have big tents out there. That way, it’s not such an eyesore.”

Ottosen, who runs The Backpack Project, has been collecting donations until Dec. 23, and is hosting a donation drive on the 900-block of Pandora Avenue on the 21st.

Sylvia Ceacero, the executive director of the GVCEH, was not available to answer questions before the publication deadline. Last month, the organization had yet to hire someone to coordinate the EWR before temperatures dropped below freezing.

At the time, Ceacero said the city would be responsible for coordinating the response.

“I am here telling you that we will do much better in the future to ensure that we are supporting the city in what it needs to do,” she had told us. Now, the responsibility is back with the GVCEH.

contact@capitaldaily.ca

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