Few Sooke homeless heading to shelters

The region’s extreme weather protocol has been activated three times this fall

Only a few Sooke homeless people have been sent to out-of-town shelters to get out of the wet and cold, says the coordinator of the Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol.

The region’s extreme weather protocol has been activated three times this fall, including twice last week due to fierce winds and rains.

“In the past, we had a shelter in Sooke, but people weren’t using it,” said Jen Wilde, coordinator of the Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol.

The temporary shelters are available from now until March 31, when the community issues an extreme weather alert. Communities decide what weather warrants an alert and how many spaces to make active on a given night, depending on the capacity of existing shelters and the estimated need.

These spaces supplement the 150 permanent, year-round shelter beds in Greater Victoria. Most of these shelters are open 24/7 and provide three meals a day.

Wild said “only a few” people in Sooke have taken advantage of the temporary shelters.

The program works locally through the Sooke Crisis and Referral Centre which arranges the homeless to travel to Victoria. Others, who refuse to leave, are offered tarps, tents, sleeping bags, mats, jackets and even socks.

Generally, homeless do not stay in Sooke over the fall and winter, preferring to stay in the downtown core where services are available.

“They definitely would stay in Sooke if they could … if the services were here,” said Philip Bulled, a Sooke Crisis Centre representative.

Bulled pointed out there are only a few “true homeless” people living in the Greater Sooke area, but there are many who couch surf or find others forms of accommodation, he said.

“Homelessness is a very complex issue,” he added.

Wilde said most of the region’s homeless head to the Victoria core because of the services offered – shelter, meals and health services – but some do fall through the cracks.

“It becomes a bit of a challenge to keep tabs on people,” she said. “If there is ever a situation where people have a concern about someone, I would encourage them to phone me.”

klaird@blackpress.ca

For more information about the extreme weather protocol in Greater Victoria, please go online to vewp.net.