Increased warming centre capacity to support people sleeping in Oppenheimer Park
Powell Street Getaway to open overnight whenever it feels like 0 degrees
Based on last year’s extreme weather activations, we expect that by opening Powell Street Getaway when temperatures are at, or feel like, 0 degrees we will double the number of times this warming centre opens.
Celine Mauboules, Director of Homelessness Services
The City is ensuring people sleeping in Oppenheimer Park have the option to stay warm indoors by working with Lookout Housing and Health Society to open a warming centre more frequently. Previously, Lookout Society’s Powell Street Getaway opened as a warming centre only when the temperatures were at -5 but since December 9 the centre has been opening when the weather is 0 degrees, or feels like 0 degrees.
Last night the warming centre at Powell Street Getaway opened for the sixth time and will also be open tonight as part of an Extreme Weather Response activation. To date, Powell Street Getaway has welcomed on average 108 people per night, and these numbers are set to increase with the new threshold for opening.
Celine Mauboules, Director of Homelessness Services at the City, said: “We are pleased to be working with Lookout Society to provide warm spaces on a more regular basis for people who are sleeping outside. Based on last year’s extreme weather activations, we expect that by opening Powell Street Getaway when temperatures are at, or feel like, 0 degrees we will double the number of times this warming centre opens.”
Powell Street Getaway, which is operated by Lookout Society, is approximately 100m from Oppenheimer Park and offers meals and connections to daytime services, as well as a safe consumption site.
The City of Vancouver continues to have concerns about the safety of individuals sleeping in the park. Despite a Fire Chief’s Order being in place in the park since February, people are continuing to take dangerous measures to try and stay warm.
The City’s Homelessness Services Outreach staff continue to work with approximately 50 people who are experiencing homelessness and frequently sleeping in Oppenheimer Park. In addition to the more than 130 people who were housed in August, the City and BC Housing has housed a further 11 people over the last few months.
The opening of warming centres, like Powell Street Getaway, is in addition to 329 shelter spaces that the Province and City have opened this winter. The Province, in conjunction with Homelessness Services Association of BC and community organizations, also opens additional shelter spaces when extreme weather alerts are issued on evenings such as tonight and yesterday when the temperature is 0 degrees or feels like 0.
During the day, those in need can also access low-cost meals and free shower and laundry facilities at Carnegie, Evelyne Saller and Gathering Place community centres. These locations and other public buildings are also available during their opening hours as spaces to warm up during extreme weather conditions
The City urges anyone who is sleeping outside on a cold night to make use of facilities such as Powell Street Getaway or to call 2-1-1 to find out about available shelter spaces. Members of the public who would like to donate warm clothing such as new socks, toques or gloves can call 2-1-1 to find out how.
Apart from Powell Street Getaway, all other warming centres are activated when the temperature reaches -5°C or below (or it feels like -5°C or below). Hot drinks and snacks are available, and people can bring their carts and pets. People with their own bedding may choose to sleep at the centre.
Community centres and other public buildings are available during their opening hours as spaces to warm up during the day. Tonight will be the seventh night when warming centres have opened and they have welcomed 862 people.
Emergency weather response
Emergency weather response (EWR) alerts are issued by Homelessness Services Association of BC (HSABC), in conjunction with the Province, when overnight temperatures are 0 degrees or feel like 0 degrees and temporary shelter spaces are opened at facilities across the city. Tonight will be the 17th night that EWR facilities have opened this winter. For more information about the EWR program, please visit Homelessness Services Association website.
HSABC activates EWR under the following criteria:
- Temperatures near zero with rainfall that makes it difficult or impossible for those experiencing homelessness to remain dry
- Sleet or freezing rain
- Snow accumulation
- Sustained high winds
- Temperatures at or below 0°C, or "feels like" 0°C with wind chill
- Rainfall of at least 50mm in a 24-hour period