New indoor shelter spaces open for winter weather
People experiencing homelessness have additional warm and safe indoor shelter options as winter weather settles over British Columbia.
So far this season, the Province, through BC Housing, has funded approximately 2,080 temporary winter shelter spaces and more than 480 extreme weather response (EWR) shelters. Most of these temporary spaces are open and the remainder will open in the coming weeks. BC Housing will continue to work with providers and municipalities to open additional shelter spaces in communities where there is need.
With the new spaces, more than 4,910 shelter spaces are open in 50 communities throughout the province, including permanent, temporary and EWR shelters. It is expected that more EWR spaces will open as additional locations are identified by communities.
- Permanent shelters: These shelters are open every night throughout the year and are a permanent resource in communities. There are approximately 2,350 permanent shelter spaces operating throughout B.C.
- Temporary shelters: These shelters are open every night during winter, and most shelters operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with meals provided. Some temporary shelters are seasonal and will close on March 31, 2023, while others will remain open longer.
- Extreme weather response (EWR) shelters: These spaces open overnight when a community issues an extreme weather alert, such as during cold temperatures, snow, heavy rain or significant wind. Municipalities determine what weather conditions warrant an extreme weather alert and determine the number of extreme weather spaces to activate. EWR funding is seasonal and will remain available until April 15, 2023, which is when EWR shelters will close.
Shelter programs are made possible through partnerships with communities and non-profit groups throughout the province to provide immediate places to stay for anyone who is experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Additionally, through Emergency Management BC, the Province provided guidelines to local governments and First Nations about eligible reimbursements for warming centres during extreme weather. Warming centres are an emergency measure established by communities for people to warm up and get information about how to safely stay warm in their own homes. Communities may be reimbursed for costs to establish warming centres, including facility rental and fuel costs.
In addition to these shelters, since 2017, BC Housing has partnered with non-profit housing providers, municipalities and health authorities to fund and open almost 4,750 new supportive housing spaces throughout B.C. for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. This includes leased hotel spaces that were opened in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and remain available to prevent people from being displaced, as well as supportive housing.
While the Province has invested in thousands of shelter spaces and new supportive homes, there is an urgent need for more permanent housing spaces. There are 2,300 new supportive homes underway throughout B.C., and BC Housing continues to work with municipalities, health authorities and throughout government to create more permanent solutions that address people’s unique needs.
The B.C. government is investing $633 million in new initiatives over three years, aimed at helping to prevent and reduce chronic homelessness in the province. These investments include:
- $35 million over three years for new and increased supports for young people in government care until the age of 27, including a new financial supplement, a no-limit earnings exemption, help with the cost of housing, improved access to transition workers, enhanced life skills and mental-health programs, and better medical benefits;
- as much as $600-per-month rent supplements with integrated health and social supports that will help more than 3,000 people with low incomes access housing in the private market over the next three years;
- more than doubling the current number of community-integration specialists to help people experiencing homelessness navigate government programs and available supports in communities throughout the province;
- $164 million over three years to expand government’s complex-care housing program, to help B.C.’s most vulnerable people with complex health, mental-health and substance-use challenges who may need a level of support that goes beyond what the current model of supportive housing can provide; and
- $264 million over three years for a permanent housing plan to ensure the approximately 3,000 people who were temporarily housed during the COVID-19 pandemic do not return to homelessness.
To see a map of all permanent, temporary and EWR shelters throughout communities in B.C., visit: https://smap.bchousing.org/
To find a warming centre, visit: https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/extreme-cold-multiple-locations-in-bc/
To learn about the Province’s emergency shelter program, visit: https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance/homelessness-services/emergency-shelterprogram
A backgrounder follows.