Victoria non-profits opened more shelter spaces for those wanting indoor shelter during the ongoing cold snap. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria non-profits opened more shelter spaces for those wanting indoor shelter during the ongoing cold snap. (Black Press Media file photo)

More shelter spaces open for Victoria homeless during cold snap

Organizations collaborated, says Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness

Another 20 mats are available for Victorians needing shelter as cold weather continues across the region.

Working with several other organizations, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness (GVCEH) announced Friday that Kirk Hall, at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, will have 20 mats available for overnight shelter and space for 40 people during the day.

The news comes as an arctic front continues to batter the region, bringing cold winds and the possibility of more than 20 centimetres of snow Friday night. GVCEH says it is working on creating a COVID-specific emergency shelter plan.

On Thursday, Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt implored council to show leadership on the extreme cold weather sheltering issue by asking the city to open the lobby of Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre to the Dandelion Society so it could lay out mats for indoor sheltering during the current cold snap.

Isitt said the James Bay United Church had agreed to open its community space for the purpose, but due to COVID distancing restrictions, it did not have enough room to spread out the mats. “The intent behind this motion,” he said, “is to make it crystal clear that City of Victoria facilities should be available for the next few days to reduce the risk of loss of life.”

RELATED STORY: Rock Bay Landing encampment fire points to need for shelter for Victoria’s homeless

The eventually approved wording added in, “or other suitable locations.” Council heard that the Kirk Hall at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church had become available for upwards of 30 spaces that day, and that city staff are working daily with the Dandelion Society, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness and BC Housing to find more spaces.

Mayor Lisa Helps pointed out that at the time of the fire in a tent near Rock Bay Landing on Wednesday night, the Victoria Cool Aid Society had open mats available across the street. Coun. Sarah Potts cautioned that people need to be careful of assuming that everyone currently unsheltered is able or willing to take up mats inside.

Several warming tents are available around the city, including the 24/7 community care tent at the corner of Cook Street and Dallas Road and the Peers Victoria warming tent at Royal Athletic Park, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Mustard Seed parking lot at 625 Queens Ave. has warming tents available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the cold weather. Our Place Society’s courtyard tents, with heaters, remain open from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 919 Pandora Ave.

READ ALSO: Winter storm watch snow warning issued for much of Vancouver Island

As of Friday afternoon, the following emergency indoor shelter locations are available:

Kirk Hall (680 Courtney St.)

Kirk Hall has overnight space for up to 20 people and is first come, first served. Breakfast and dinner is provided and daytime warming is available for 40 people from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Island Health Sobering Centre (1125 Pembroke St.)

The Centre has 15 mat spaces. People can stop by at any time to ask about space or can call ahead at 250-213-4441.

Out of the Rain (1450 Elford St.)

For youth 15 to 25 years old. Out of the Rain will open 7 p.m. on Feb. 12.

Salvation Army ARC Chapel (525 Johnson St.)

The Salvation Army has spaces for up to 10 people, operating from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. People can stop by or call 250-384-3396 to sign up for a mat.

The James Bay United Church (511 Michigan Ave.)

Operated by the Victoria Dandelion Society, the church is open 24/7 and has space for 20 people. There are no mats but there are toilet facilities, coffee, tea and snacks. Access is along the right hand side of the church and through the back patio.

READ ALSO: Victoria Cool Aid Society works to keep people warm and sheltered during cold snap

Seniors shelter (Address not listed)

The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness has opened 10 spaces for vulnerable, low acuity seniors 55 years of age and older. Referral is through phone intake by calling the site manager at 250-589-7481 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. After hours, call the site office at 250-508-9326. Pets are allowed.

Rock Bay Landing Seasonal Shelter (535 Ellice St.)

People can drop in or call 250-383-1951 to get on the list. Fifteen additional overnight mats were added this week and will be available during the inclement weather.

Victoria Native Friendship Centre (231 Regina Ave.)

The Native Friendship Centre is not accepting drop-ins. It is open 24/7 and people can call 250-812-7100 anytime of day to see if space is available.

– With files from Don Descoteau


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