Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol has been activated all but three days in the last month, according to a spokesperson for the community emergency shelter group.
“Since the 3rd of February, we’ve activated every day except for three,” said Jen Wilde.
Opening the first tier shelters due to long stretches of cold is unusual for this time of year, she added. By contrast, VEWP had only a few activations in January.
“Generally this would happen in and around December, January as opposed to January, February March, so it seems to have shifted to when it has happened, but it has happened before.”
Greater Victoria experienced an unusually snowy February. Greater Victoria received more snow by mid-February than most major cities, including, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa.
Shelters in February operated at a “fairly high capacity,” Wilde said. Second tier shelters meanwhile have not been “open for the most part.”
People are resilient about the weather, but they have been coming in, Wilde said.
“They are capable of tolerating short bouts of cold weather, but when you get extended long periods of cold like this, it starts to accumulate.”
Wilde noted, the cold poses health risks that compounds for a vulnerable population.
“If your health is compromised and you’re spending a lot of time in a cold environment, it can lead to health issues around coughs and lung issues. You’re burning off an awful lot of energy trying to keep warm, and if you don’t have access to regular meals, then that could be really challenging, and people start to get run down and worn down.”
The Extreme Weather Protocol program began in 2004 and opens shelters to deal with overflows caused by “acute winter weather conditions of heavy wind, snow and snow accumulation, rain and temperatures of 0’ and below,” according to its website.