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Vancouver cold weather could put unhoused at risk

Temperatures in Vancouver are expected to plummet to near freezing overnight this weekend, putting the city's unhoused at further risk.

This weekend’s weather forecast in Vancouver will feel like a mix of spring and winter depending on the time of day, and that could put people experiencing homelessness in the city at risk.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, sunshine is in the forecast on both Saturday and Sunday with temperatures nearing 10 degrees, before plummeting to near zero overnight.

That has prompted the City of Vancouver to implement its cold weather response through to Monday. That means there will be additional shelter spaces and warming centres available for unhoused people.


Rachel Allen, a spokesperson for the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver, says the temperature swings could sneak up on people.

“People experiencing homelessness are living in survival mode because they’re thinking about what’s immediately in front of them,” she explained. “Oftentimes, people in those circumstances aren’t thinking about planning ahead. They’re not checking weather forecasts, they’re not seeing what they might need to prepare for.”


When the temperature does drop, Allen says it can pose risks like pneumonia or other illnesses, but there are other dangers that come up too.

“If people are maybe thinking that it’s a lot warmer out, and maybe staying outdoors more often, and not expecting this cold snap that we’re having, trying to keep themselves warm by either lighting candles or having heaters — that can often be a danger,” she told CityNews.

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Allen points to a couple of recent instances in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood where tents have caught on fire, including one where a woman was found dead inside.

“That’s something that is devastating to us and such sad news because when people don’t have proper housing, then they’re going to be at increased risk of something like that,” she said.

-With files from Robyn Crawford