Providing warm, dry places to sleep in Victoria

As nasty weather hits Greater Victoria, the Extreme Weather Protocol lends a housing hand to the region's homeless

Jen Book

When extreme weather hits the Capital Region, Jen Book springs into action.

As regional co-ordinator for the Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol, she oversees efforts to help Victoria’s homeless population access additional shelters, on winter nights they would otherwise spend battling cold and wet conditions outdoors.

“Any snowflake in the forecast and we’re activated,” Book says.

The protocol is triggered before and during weather events including sub-zero temperatures, extreme wind or rain, and snowfall.

While November and December tend to be the coldest months on average in the region, the number of times the strategy is activated fluctuates. EWP figures show a high of 82 one winter and a low of 25 in another.

This season has been relatively mild so far, with just eight activations between Dec. 3 and Jan. 3.

That’s not unusual, says Book, recalling last year’s activations began in January.

“If we get hit with lots of cold temperatures, lots of rain, lots of wind or anything else, then we’re looking at more activations, and if we have a mild winter, it’s the opposite.”

When the protocol is in effect, 105 additional beds become available at Our Place Society, Salvation Army’s Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre and the Victoria Native Friendship Centre in Saanich.

That’s in addition to the 265 seasonal beds currently available on a nightly basis in the city, totalling 370 beds during extreme weather conditions.

This winter the program, which generally runs from the beginning of November until the end of March, has also provided 40 beds nightly at St. John the Divine Anglican Church.

The church, which formerly opened as an emergency shelter during extreme weather, accommodates men, women and their pets.

But available shelters in outlying regions of Greater Victoria continue to be in need.

“We’ve been trying to branch out and get into other municipalities, but at this point we haven’t been able to secure any locations for that,” Book says.

The ongoing challenge, she adds, is finding space suitable as a shelter. “We have had circumstances where we’ve gone in and gotten almost everything done, and then found something isn’t going to work (and) had to pull out (of the arrangement).”

Until those shelters can be developed, every effort is made to help bring in people from outlying areas. Bus fare is provided for those coming from Langford, Sooke and Sidney, for example.

The protocol also provides a nighttime shuttle service to help transport those in need of shelter. The shuttle runs daily from 9 p.m. to midnight, picking people up from stops such as Our Place, The Salvation Army or Rock Bay Landing and bringing them to designated shelters.

“It’s quite a flexible program where we tend to just react and respond where people are at as best we can,” Book says.

The EWP is currently in need of warm winter clothing, such as coats, sweaters, toques, and mittens. To donate, stop by the Victoria Cool Aid Society’s coat drive on Jan. 10, from 1-2:30 p.m., at the Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora Ave. For more information about the protocol, visit vewp.net.

Year by year activations of the Extreme Weather Protocol:

2005: 25

2006: 56

2007: 82

2008: 81

2009: 57

2010: 43

2011: 59

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Dead geese near Esquimalt Lagoon draws ire of resident

City says ‘several’ geese struck by vehicles recently

National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations underway

Hundreds gather at Royal Roads University in Colwood

Emergency crews responding to injured person at Thetis Lake

Extent of injuries unknown at this time

115 new wildfires burning across B.C. due to 19,000 lightning strikes

More fires expected to start today, says BC Wildfire Service officials

Royal Roads appoints new president, vice-chancellor

Philip Steenkamp brings two decades of senior leadership experience

VIDEO: B.C.’s ‘unicycle cowboy’ aspires to be rancher one day

Burklan Johnson has only ridden a horse once, but this unicyclist has big plans to become a cowboy.

Crown appeals B.C. polygamous leader’s acquittal in child bride case

James Oler had been charged with taking his underage daughter to the U.S. to marry her off

Keep your pets safe while driving

ICBC and SPCA join forces on pet safety awareness initiative

Reports of explosion in Okanagan turn out to be squirrel vs. power line

The noise was described as ‘similar to a shotgun blast’ that shook the Earth

A look at what Canadian teams might do in the 1st round of the NHL draft

Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Edmonton in top 10 of upcoming draft

Seasonal transit changes take effect July 2

Improved service to popular summer destinations

Koko, the gorilla who knew sign language, dies at 46

Western lowland gorilla, 46, died in her sleep in California

California court hears tales of shackled, starved children

David and Louise Turpin have pleaded not guilty to torture, child abuse of their 12 children

Most Read