Coming up with solutions to provide shelter for the region’s homeless requires Jen Book to put on her creative thinking cap.
When faced with forecasts calling for nights of extreme wind, freezing rain, snow or sub-zero temperatures, she activates the Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol, allowing additional emergency shelters to open and get more people off the streets.
Upwards of 145 mats can be put out at the Salvation Army, Our Place Society, St. John the Divine Church and the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, beyond the usual year-round emergency shelters.
The protocol’s typical operating season runs from Nov. 1 to March 31. But extreme-weather shelters are needed in other areas of the Capital Region to serve vulnerable people closer to home.
Book, the protocol’s regional co-ordinator, continues to look for spaces in Langford, Sooke, Sidney and Esquimalt to include on the protocol list.
“Our hope is to actually create shelters in their regions so we’re not having to transport people around so much,” she said.
It’s important to find the right type of space, said Book, adding the shelter must be able to offer clients a minimum of eight hours of sleep, among other criteria.
“We have a lot of communities that are interested and wanting to participate in this project, and at this time, based on the difficulty of finding space or shelter, … we’ve had to find other solutions.”
That means working with community partners throughout the region, such as police, to connect with the homeless and let them know where they can turn. Other creative measures include arranging for them to be picked up and brought to the shelters, or covering the cost of their transit fares for the trip in from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal or Sidney.
The protocol is also in need of coats and rain gear. To contribute visit www.vewp.net.