Snow trucks lined up

City ready to support residents through this winter’s snow and cold

November 26 2020 –

We are well into the fall season and with temperatures starting to drop, the City of Vancouver is making final preparations for its winter weather response. And, despite some added challenges brought on by COVID-19, City staff are ready to support residents through snow and cold weather.   

At our shelters and warming centres new measures are being put in place to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. All sites have safety plans and are meeting physical distancing requirements. City staff are working with BC Housing to identify opportunities to add additional shelter capacity over this winter season.

At National Yard, the City’s base for snow operations, crews will once again be following a comprehensive plan for treating snow and ice, based on tailored forecasts for Vancouver. More than ever, this season we are asking motorists to only undertake essential travel on snow days and help keep roads clear for our plows and for essential workers.

Snow and ice response

When cold weather is forecast, the City’s essential workers in Engineering Services begin planning for snow and ice treatments on priority routes. We take snow and ice treatment seriously and have a winter weather response plan that includes street brining, salting, plowing, enforcement, and emergency response. 

Following the record snow fall in 2017, we expanded our snow removal coverage and made more salt available. This season, we have more than 100 vehicles and equipment units, 3,000 tonnes of salt at our yards and hundreds of staff to deploy as required. We follow a prioritized plan to first address major roads and bus routes, as well as bridges and main streets adjacent to major hospitals.

Following a snow event, all property owners and tenants must clear snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to their property or residence the morning after a snowfall, seven days a week. 

  • The City encourages residents and businesses to lend a hand to those who are unable to shovel their own sidewalks, particularly seniors and people with mobility challenges.
  • You can also become an official Snow Angel and help others in need when it snows –

Support for people sleeping outside

To ensure that people sleeping outside can come into warm, safe spaces during Vancouver’s coldest months, the City and partners are once again activating a variety of spaces to welcome people to come in from the cold.

In partnership with BC Housing, the City opens the following warm spaces during the winter:

Year-round, permanent shelter beds

There are more than 700 available across the city

Temporary shelters

Since 2009, the City has partnered with the Province to open additional shelter space for the winter months. This year, there are approximately 250 beds. Those looking for shelter space can call 2-1-1 to check availability. 

Emergency weather response (EWR) shelters

Additional shelter beds, funded by the provincial government, are opened when Extreme Weather Response alerts are issued by the Homelessness Services Association of BC (HSABC) . These are based on criteria including temperature near zero, heavy rainfall and high winds.

Alerts are shared with service providers, TransLink, and other partners who can inform people who are experiencing homelessness.

Learn more about the Extreme Weather Response Program

Warming centres

The City activates warming centres in cold weather as a life-saving measure when the temperature reaches -5°C or below (or it feels like -5°C or below). While they are not set up with beds or mats, they provide a safe, warm space for people who might be living outside.

The centres are open to all, and visitors may bring their pets, bikes, and carts with them. Hot drinks and snacks are available, and those with their own bedding may choose to sleep at the centre.

These sites are in addition to Extreme Weather Response shelters and temporary shelters. Warming centre alerts are circulated to partner agencies, community centre staff, outreach program staff, and a variety of agencies serving individuals experiencing homelessness. The home page of the City’s website shows an alert when warming centres are activated. 

Those looking for shelter space can call 2-1-1 to check availability or find a full list of shelters online .
Find more information about our winter response strategy