As the temperature drops, the first extreme weather alert of the year – opening emergency shelter beds for homeless people – has been issued for Abbotsford, beginning on Nov. 11.
Nate McCready, Abbotsford’s extreme weather shelter co-ordinator and community ministries director at the Salvation Army, said the alert was issued for two days, but it could go on for longer based on the forecast.
The alerts are called when weather drops below zero, there is significant snow accumulation or conditions are deemed significant enough to pose a threat to the life or health of homeless people, said McCready.
There are 20 additional beds at the Salvation Army and six beds for youths at the Cyrus Centre during the cold weather, making a total of 46 beds at Salvation Army and 10 at Cyrus Centre.
On the night of Nov. 11, 18 of the 20 extreme weather beds were used at the Salvation Army.
Extreme weather beds are funded through the provincial government through BC Housing and seek to help homeless individuals on the streets. The beds are available from November to March whenever the community issues an extreme weather alert.
Local churches also provide additional space and McCready said there are churches ready for January through March.
He said while he appreciates the churches that open their doors, it would be nice for those using the shelter to know exactly where they will be located. While there will likely be adequate beds for the year, a permanent secondary location would be nice, he said.
There are changes this year to improve the program. The Salvation Army will put staff at the churches so they can do intake on site and people will not have to go to the Salvation Army first and then be dispatched to a church, explained McCready.
The 5 and 2 Ministries will also provide rides for those in need. There will be posters around the city with a phone number that people can call to be picked up and brought to the shelter.
McCready said there are always people who need to come inside in cold weather. He said that for people who have serious health conditions, the weather could make them severe, and anyone could experience hypothermia.
The 2014 homeless count found 151 homeless residents in Abbotsford.