Residents experiencing homelessness are being urged to use the City’s warming centres which will open for the next two nights in response to extreme cold weather. Warming centres are activated as a life-saving response for people sleeping outside during the city’s coldest months.
“No one needs to be outside,” said Sandra Singh, General Manager of Arts, Culture, and Community Services. “We really want residents experiencing homelessness to come inside and stay safe. Warming centres will welcome everyone, and people can bring their pets, bikes, and carts with them.”
Warming centres will be open at the following locations on Thursday, November 28 and Friday, November 29:
Britannia Community Centre – 1739 Venables St, open between 9pm and 8:30am
Vancouver Aquatic Centre – 1050 Beach Ave (enter via Seawall), open between 10pm and 6am
Powell Street Getaway – 528 Powell St, open between 9pm and 7am
Overdose Prevention Society – 58 East Hastings St, open between 11pm and am (This location is an Overdose Prevention Site that provides harm reduction)
Fire Chief’s order at Oppenheimer Park
The City recognizes that the weather is worsening and this is leading to people taking dangerous measures to try and stay warm. At Oppenheimer Park, a Fire Chief’s order has been in place since February 2019 which sets out a number of conditions to reduce the fire hazard for people living in the park, but compliance with that order has been limited.
There have been more than 20 fires in the park since February and Vancouver Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) is reporting increasingly dangerous situations that pose a serious risk to life. VFRS recently found two 30lb propane tanks which had domestic hosepipes attached to them with masking tape and these were being used to fuel an open flame grill that was inside a tent. This set-up had already burnt the tent and could have caused a significant explosion in the park.
The City’s Outreach staff continue to be at Oppenheimer Park regularly and are working to move people indoors. Currently the Outreach team is working with approximately 50 people who are experiencing homelessness and frequently sleeping in the park.
Warming centre activation
Warming centres are activated when the temperature reaches -5°C or below (or it feels like -5°C or below). Hot drinks and snacks will be available, and those with their own bedding may choose to sleep at the centre. Last year, up to 100 people accessed the City's warming centres on any open night.
Community centres and other public buildings are available during their opening hours as spaces to warm up during the day.
Since 2009, the City has partnered with the Province to open additional shelter space for the winter months. This year, more than 300 temporary beds are available. Those looking for shelter space can call 2-1-1 to check availability.
Extreme Weather Response shelters are also open tonight, offering an additional 145 spaces. These spaces are funded by BC Housing and are in addition to the temporary shelter spaces.