BRITISH COLUMBIA

Homelessness: Vancouver Opens HEAT Shelters For Cold Snap

12/29/2014 09:43 EST | Updated 02/28/2015 05:59 EST
Alex Wichman via Getty Images
Environment Canada is forecasting cold winds and freezing temperatures rolling through parts of B.C. will persist for several days, and that's heightened concerns for people living on the streets.

In Prince George temperatures are forecast to dip below –20 C overnight later this week. In Metro Vancouver overnight temperatures are expected to dip to –5 C by Wednesday.

As result extra mats are being put out at the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to give more homeless people a place to come in from the cold, said outreach worker Dan Van Spronsen.

"It's extremely important. I mean it's a life and death issue if people are sleeping outside when it gets this cold. It could very well be life-threatening," said Van Spronsen

"Just having that space where they can come in out of the cold and have a good night's rest is huge."

Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang said the city has also activated its extreme weather response and is opening up its HEAT shelters.

"We're hoping that we get as many people inside as we can," said Jang.

Meanwhile outreach workers are looking for homeless people, and directing them to the extra shelter beds. People are given shelter tickets in the late afternoon to ensure a space when the shelter opens later in the evening.

"One of the most interesting facts that we've seen from our various homeless counts and other scientific studies is that since the opening of the City of Vancouver HEAT shelters that the mortality rate of the homeless has dropped in half within the city." said Jang.

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