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Extreme weather shelter rules relaxed

Ryan Brady prepares some cold weather beds at the Surrey Urban Mission.  - Leader file photo
Ryan Brady prepares some cold weather beds at the Surrey Urban Mission.
— image credit: Leader file photo

Extreme weather shelters in Surrey and White Rock will now open more frequently, after Surrey council made a call for them to be available during warmer temperatures.

On Monday, council passed a resolution asking that the Extreme Weather Response should be triggered at freezing temperatures, rather than its current -2 Celsius.

“After consulting with the organizations that provide extreme weather services, we believe that when the temperature drops to zero those beds can and should be opened,” Mayor Dianne Watts said in a release. “The change will bring our city in line with many of the other communities in Metro Vancouver.”

Until this week, in Surrey and White Rock, extreme weather was defined as temperatures of - 2 C or below, significant snow or freezing rain, windstorms and rain lasting more than three days.

The plan identifies six shelter locations that can provide up to 135 extreme weather beds, which has been sufficient to meet the demand in previous years.

On Tuesday, the province and local service providers acquiesced to Surrey council's call for a warmer threshold.

Coun. Judy Villeneuve, president of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society, told The Leader Wednesday shelters will now be open at zero degrees C.

"I got a notice that the plan is active," Villeneuve said.

She acknowledged that the thresholds can't be too much warmer than that, or it becomes a regular homeless shelter with a host of other hurdles.

"If it goes higher, then they have to meet a whole different criteria," Villeneuve said.

Surrey opened its extreme weather shelters earlier this month during a cold snap, along with shelters across Metro Vancouver.

kdiakiw@surreyleader.com

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