Peace Portal Alliance Church, at the corner of King George Boulevard and 152 Street, is the extreme-weather shelter for South Surrey. (File photo)

Peace Portal Alliance Church, at the corner of King George Boulevard and 152 Street, is the extreme-weather shelter for South Surrey. (File photo)

Surrey extreme-weather shelters exceed capacity

Options said due to the extreme cold, nobody was turned away Wednesday night

Options Community Services made a potentially life-saving decision Wednesday evening, forgoing one of its COVID-19 protocols to ensure that people in need were given shelter as temperatures on the Semiahmoo Peninsula dropped well below freezing.

Earlier in the week, senior program manager Bruce Strom told Peace Arch News that Peace Portal Alliance Church shelter is operating at a reduced capacity of 20 people to accommodate COVID-19 distancing concerns. Once capacity is reached, staff typically provide services, such as food and bus tickets, before turning clients away. Staff also try to find other shelters in the city with available beds.

Last night, 33 homeless people showed up to Peace Portal Alliance Church. However, rather than cap admittance at 20, the shelter allowed everyone to stay the night.

“Last night was just utterly life-threatening temperatures and we could not turn people away in good conscience,” Strom said, adding that not everyone who showed up was provided with a sleeping mat, but they were kept warm and dry.

Last night, temperatures in the area dropped to –5 C. This morning, Environment Canada issued an “arctic outflow warning” noting that wind-chill values will range from –10 C to –20 C.

Earlier in the week, Strom talked to PAN about striking a balance between COVID-19 concerns and the immediate risk of people dying outdoors in extreme weather.

RELATED: Cold snap causes concern for South Surrey homeless population

“The last thing we want is to, by our decisions, jeopardize someone’s life,” he said, adding that Options will continue to provide accommodation to everyone who shows up to its shelters while temperatures are “drastic.”

Noting that the buses stop running at midnight, Strom said one of the challenges shelters are facing is lack of transportation.

“We typically have beds available at our Cloverdale site,” he said, adding that the shelter was under-capacity Wednesday night.

“It’s definitely an anomaly. You never know what’s going to happen from night to night. But typically, when we’ve got the extreme weather like this cold snap… the numbers go up. So I have no idea what happened to our numbers last night.”

Options operates shelters in the Ladner United Church and the Pacific Community Church in Cloverdale. The Ladner location exceeded capacity last night, but like Peace Portal, everyone who showed up was allowed to stay.

Another challenge for homeless people, Strom added, is that the City of Surrey doesn’t have any daytime warming centres.

“We give people food, we give people a chance to use the washrooms and organize before they head out the door at seven in the morning, but that’s when we have to close up shop.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

HomelessSevere weatherSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Labour Minister Harry Bains addressing Surrey Board of Trade digital meeting Friday. (Screen shot)
Labour Minister says Surrey businesses’ resilience through pandemic ‘impressive’

‘Surrey’s effort in bending the curve has been among the best,’ Harry Bains says

Volunteers from Semiahmoo Secondary joined with members of the Lower Mainland Green Team and the White Rock and South Surrey Naturalists Wednesday to remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park. (Contributed photo)
Students, volunteers remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park

Day-long project a collaboration between city, Lower Mainland Green Team

Raj Singh Toor (left) with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudea after an official apology for the treatment of Komagata Maru passengers in 1914. (Contributed photo)
Request made for City of White Rock to honour Komagata Maru passengers

Raj Singh Toor confident city will rename ‘street, park or city asset’ in honour of 1914 tragedy

Cloverdale robbery suspect. (Surrey RCMP photo)
Man charged in relation to four separate robberies in Cloverdale

Jake Eric Henderson allegedly committed four gas station robberies in January

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

Most Read