VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – An extreme weather alert has been issued for Vancouver’s homeless.

Irene Jaakson with the Greater Vancouver Shelter Strategy says 200 extra spaces are being added so those on the street can come in from the cold.

“I call the alert as early as possible in the daytime, and with the alert a poster goes out and I email it to just dozens and dozens and dozens of community agencies and individuals and offices and ask them to post this poster, letting them know where the extra shelter spaces are going to be available tonight,” she explains.

“As well, I ask them to pass on the information to anybody that they might run into, and let them know that the weather is dangerously cold and it’s really potentially going to compromise their health and well-being if they stay outside, so the message is to please come into some of the shelters.”

Jaakson says she is cautiously optimistic that no one seeking shelter tonight will be turned away, but adds that these emergency measures are only a temporary fix.

“I think it’s really important to remember that this is truly an emergency response,” she says. “This is not meant to be a sustainable way to manage homelessness. The only way that we can deal with homelessness is by creating a range of supportive housing options for people. That’s the only way  that people are truly going to be safe when the weather gets to be like this.”

The weather in Greater Vancouver is expected to be cold, wet, and snowy all through the weekend and potentially into next week, so the extreme weather alert will continue until conditions improve.

Meanwhile, the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) has been assembling and distributing extreme weather kits with things like water-proof emergency blanket, socks, Thinsulate gloves, flashlights and hand-warmers, but says its stocks are completely depleted.

The UGM is appealing to the public for funds and donations of new or gently used items. To find out how to donate, visit their website.

Information on shelter locations can be found at www.gvss.ca.