A total of 329 shelter spaces, including 91 reopened temporary shelter beds, will be available in the city starting Nov. 1.
The extra shelter spots are part of the City of Vancouver and B.C. government’s winter response strategy.
“While we continue to work with senior levels of government to build permanent housing, temporary shelters save lives by ensuring that our most vulnerable neighbours have a place to sleep inside during the cold winter months,” Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a press release.
“In addition to a warm bed, a place to shower, do laundry and eat, temporary shelters are crucial for providing connections to housing and health services.”
During this year’s homeless count back in March, a record number of people were counted as homeless in the city – 2,223 were counted as homeless with 1,609 classified as sheltered and 614 unsheltered.
That is an all-time high, and an overall increase of 42 over the 2018 count.
Counts conducted over the last five years have shown a steady increase in the number of homeless in the city, jumping from 1,746 recorded in 2015 to this year’s 2,223.
In 2005, it was 1,364.
This year’s 329 winter shelter spaces is the highest number of temporary shelter spaces ever opened in the city. More than 230 of the shelter beds were in operation last winter and have remained open through provincial funding.
“During the colder months, it’s important that people experiencing homelessness in our province know that there is a place they can go to get warm and find supports that can help them stabilize their lives,” Selina Robinson, Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing, said in a press release. “As we continue the work of building permanent housing, we’re proud to work in partnership with communities and non-profit housing providers to provide these shelter spaces.”
The temporary shelters are in addition to the more than 900 shelter beds across the city.
In addition to the temporary shelter spaces, there are up to an additional 160 spaces made available during extreme weather events. Those beds are made available when an extreme weather alert is issued by the Homelessness Services Association of B.C. Alerts can be issued when temperatures fall near zero, during heavy rainfall or high winds.
The city also opens its warming centres when temperatures dip to -5 or below, or it feels like -5 or below. While the warming centres are not set up with beds or mats, they do provide a warm space for people living outside and can accommodate anyone who wants to come inside during extreme cold.
Community centres and other public buildings in the city are also available during operating hours as a place to warm up.
Anyone looking for shelter space can call 211 to check availability.