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Frigid forecast prompts Vernon’s cold weather response

Homeless being looked after with warming bus, extra mats
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Cold weather presents challenges for those unhoused. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

With the mercury expected to take a drastic drop, plans are in place to protect the most vulnerable.

Environment Canada has forecast an overnight low of -8 degrees Celsius Wednesday, -20 Thursday, -18 Friday and Saturday and -17 Sunday.

The freezing temperatures have Turning Points Collaborative Society turning up its response for those without a home.

The cold weather response plans are in place with extra mats, soup, coffee and warm oatmeal available at the Vernon shelter.

The warming bus begins operations on Wednesday, running from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. in weather below -10.

“If you see or know someone who needs to come in from the cold call 250-241-2217 for pickup or head to the shelter,” Turning Points said. “The bus can also be flagged down in parks and alleyways.

“Keep an eye on your neighbours everyone.”

Vernon’s Upper Room Mission is also collecting warm clothing, blankets and winter gear for street entrenched guests.

“If you have any good condition items you would like to donate we are open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can take all donations through the main entrance,” the Mission said. “Thank you for helping care for those most in need in our community!”

The mission does have 15 beds, but they have all been full since the winter mat program began in November.

“This does not address all the people living on the streets in Vernon. But we are thankful we have a way to help support some of our community members through the mat program and our new social worker connecting with them to help get people connected to more resources. As well as working alongside other organizations in town. The goal is always to end homelessness, but this is a community effort, something we cannot do alone.”

After a warm start to winter across much of the province, all British Columbians are encouraged to prepare for colder weather and winter road conditions in the days and weeks ahead.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has forecast a return to seasonal, cooler temperatures and issued a series of snowfall and wind warnings for many regions of the province.

People who use the backcountry for recreational activities are urged to be mindful of conditions and use extreme caution in mountainous terrain. Visit the Avalanche Canada website or mobile app to get the latest avalanche forecasts and learn more about staying safe from avalanches.

The Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness works proactively with communities to ensure they have the supports and resources needed to protect people when extreme weather is forecast. The province provides reimbursements to First Nations and local authorities for opening emergency warming centres during extreme weather. Warming centres help people warm up during cold weather and provide information about how to safely stay warm.

READ MORE: Trio of Okanagan highways continue to have winter storm, snowfall warnings

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Jennifer Smith

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