The week’s chilly weather has led to the declaration of an extreme weather alert, allowing more places for people to come in out of the cold.
In Maple Ridge, that means another 20 beds have opened up to provide shelter for the night. Those are located in the former RainCity temporary emergency shelter and former mattress shop at Lougheed Highway and 222nd Street. The location served the same purpose last winter.
“We’ve been open the past four days because of the cold,” said Darrell Pilgrim, executive-director with the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, which was also the operator last year.
But so far, only four or five people are taking advantage of the shelter, which opens at 9 p.m. People stopping in also get a hot meal and a bagged lunch for the next day.
But once the weather warms up, usually above 0 C, the shelter will close.
Pilgrim said the extra 20 mats allows the Salvation Army not to have to turn people away, which is happening in other cities. B.C. Housing funds the costs of providing shelter during extreme weather alerts.
Pilgrim added that when the extreme weather alert is not in place, three or four people are turned away every night at the shelter.
The Salvation Army also operates 30 regular shelter beds and 30 temporary cots at its main premises just across the street from the temporary shelter.
Each city within B.C. decides whether to issue an alert, based on a variety of factors, such as wind, precipitation and temperature.
According to Environment Canada, the overnight low Tuesday at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport was -5 C with temperatures expected to rebound to O C by Friday.
Typical West Coast winter weather is expected to return Sunday with gloomy clouds shrouding the area and forecast highs of 7 C.
Extreme weather alerts a usually issued when the temperature gets near 0 C, with wind chill and rain being additional factors that may trigger an alert. Communities may issue an alert if rain is forecast for two or more days.