Extreme weather response beds open unofficially for tonight’s rainfall warning

Provincially funded program funds 20 one-night shelter spaces this November

Tonight's heavy rainfall forecast has prompted the opening of 20 emergency weather response beds for people sleeping outdoors.

Tonight's heavy rainfall forecast has prompted the opening of 20 emergency weather response beds for people sleeping outdoors.

There are 20 extreme weather response beds ready in Abbotsford and, unofficially, they’re opening for tonight’s rainstorm.

Program coordinator Nate McCready of the Salvation Army said though they aren’t officially using the provincially-funded extreme weather program tonight, they’ll open up the beds to anyone who needs them in light of the forecasted cold, driving rain and winds.

An Environment Canada rainfall warning is currently in effect for the Fraser Valley area, including Abbotsford, with the possibility of over 100 mm of rain tonight. Heavy rain is forecasted to continue tomorrow. Flooding and washouts are possible.

With a forecast below freezing for Sunday night, McCready expects to officially open BC Housing-funded beds very soon.

A province-wide program funded by BC Housing, Emergency Weather Response beds provide a one-night indoor shelter for people sleeping outdoors when the weather gets cold enough to endanger their safety.

There are 20 beds currently set aside at the Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope on Gladys Avenue for the month of November, and there will be 10 more beds available at Abbotsford Community Services come December.

After that, McCready is hoping the churches who usually participate in the program will offer beds in the new year. So far, he expects Sevenoaks Alliance and Abbotsford Pentecostal will likely open their doors.

The beds open when McCready issues an extreme weather alert, usually when temperatures dip below freezing, snow builds up, or there’s heavy cold rain. He consults with other front-line service providers to the homeless, like 5 and 2 Ministries and the Cyrus Centre, and together they make a judgement call about whether a bad weather pattern will endanger people’s health.

“[BC Housing] would rather we err on the side of caution,” McCready said.

Last winter, extreme weather response beds were also provided at Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Ross Road Community Church, and the Cyrus Centre.

This winter, the province is providing about $1.6 million in funding for the program B.C.-wide from November to March. About 1,200 temporary beds will be provided across the province.