Emergency shelter slated for winter months

Local church will house homeless people on cold nights

Sooke’s homeless may have a warm place to stay on a cold winter night, after community members demonstrated a strong interest in starting up an emergency shelter program.

About 20 residents showed up to the Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Response workshop at the Prestige Oceanfront Resort on Oct. 23.

The meeting covered the possibility of introducing emergency shelters that house the homeless overnight during harsh weather conditions to Sooke.

Jen Book, Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol regional co-ordinator, identified a need in Sooke after eight homeless people were transported by car to a Victoria shelter during a snowstorm last year.

“When you’re trying to deal with an emergency response, you want to be able to respond where they are,” Book said.

“It could be a situation where we could have a certain amount of snow on the ground, you don’t want to be driving around to try to get them into a shelter.”

She added the purpose is also to keep people in municipalities with services they are familiar with.

In order to get a program started in Sooke, community members, including faith-based organizations, community service non-profits, local politicians and members of the police and fire department, will have to get together and form a response plan.

The response plan will determine logistics like shelter activation triggers, hours of operation and procedural information.

For example, the Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol opens shelter doors when the Weather Network forecasts sleet, freezing rain, snow, sustained winds and sub-zero temperatures.

The shelters, which are in Saanich and Victoria, are activated between November and March.

The program started in January 2004.

Book said the program in Sooke will hopefully start this winter, with 20 to 25 beds.

The Sooke Christian Life Assembly has offered their facility for a local emergency shelter, but that has not been officiated.

Youth under the age of 19 will still have to be transported to youth shelters in Victoria.

The program, if the budget is approved, will be funded by BC Housing. Funds will be provided for costs like laundry, staff wages, volunteer honorariums and food.

To visit the Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol website, visit: www.vewp.net.