The bitter cold blast in Chilliwack is penetrating right to the bone for people on the streets.
Emergency shelters reps around town say their extreme weather shelter bed program has been much appreciated since winter arrived last week.
“We’re averaging about eight people per night,” said Les Talvio, executive director of Cyrus Centre Chilliwack, about the teens coming in from the cold.
Chilliwack rarely gets below freezing temperatures for more than a few days, and it’s the first time in couple of years for any real snow accumulation. This early cold snap is the result of an Arctic ridge of high pressure pushing out from the Interior, coupled with Arctic outflow winds rushing in.
At Cyrus they’re at about 75 per cent capacity in terms of the extreme weather beds, having been funded for 12 spaces for 2016.
“Our extreme weather beds have been well-used,” Talvio said.
“They are grateful to have some of their basic needs met. People are cold and wet and that cold goes right to the bone.”
These are kids on the streets, or those at risk of becoming homeless, who in the past, might have shown up occasionally for dinner at the youth shelter, or for a shower, but who don’t typically sleep there.
They are coming indoors these days.
The cold snap doesn’t show any signs of letting up, with extremely cold overnight temperatures hovering around -8 C nightly.
The weather could persist to Christmas. The snow seems to have stopped for now, but the icy cold temps and wind chill persists.
“It’s not fun on the streets. No one’s having a good time right now.
“Inside, we do our best to warm their bodies, bellies and spirits,” Talvio said.
Salvation Army Pastor Tim Bohr, community ministries director said they’ve been full at the regular shelter every night.
“Prior to the extreme weather, we were pushing capacity at the temporary shelter as well,” said Bohr.
One night they took in a whopping 32 guests, with two of them sitting in chairs for half the night. The Sally Ann opens up their soup kitchen every night to provide extreme shelter spaces in the form of cots and mats on the floor for the night.
Since Ruth and Naomi’s opened their own extreme weather beds, Salvation Army has been taking in 15 to 17 guests, which is about 50 per cent of capacity, said Bohr.
Sally Ann is just that much outside downtown that some are preferring to stay at the mission instead.
In terms of extreme weather beds at Ruth and Naomi’s during the cold nights, they are taking in about 18 people per night, said Bill Raddatz, executive director, of Ruth and Naomi’s Mission.
Sally Ann loaned them some cots, and they also have foam mattresses.
Some nights they’ve seen 14 at the low end, and up to a maximum of 27 overnight guests, which was Monday night.
“Our average has been in excess of our capacity. My guess is it will continue this way,” said Raddatz.
If they ever had more than 16 show up, they’d ask volunteers to transport some over to the Sally Ann, he said.
“But as it stands we have just been squeezing them in because we won’t turn anyone away,” said Raddatz.