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Coffee certificates and cab rides: how Langley’s homeless are being helped during cold snap

Agencies cite lack of emergency weather spaces
Agencies say a lack of emergency weather shelter spaces in Langley during the current sub-zero temperatures forced some homeless to improvise, like this impromptu camp on Saturday, Jan. 13. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Agencies that help Langley’s homeless have been dipping into their own pockets to find people places to shelter from the current cold snap.

Fraser Holland, chair of the Langley Housing and Homeless Action Table (LHHAT), said their outreach team has been buying gift certificates “so that we get people inside, [where] they can sit and have a coffee.”

Kim Snow of Kimz Angels said the charity has been paying for cabs to send people to other communities in search of shelter from the freezing temperatures.

“We’re sending people to Cloverdale, to Surrey, and we shouldn’t have to do that,” Snow told the Langley Advance Times. “We have nothing to accommodate them [in Langley]. They’re freezing.”

However, pets of homeless people did have an option, if their owners were willing to take up an invitation by the Langley Animal Protection Society.

“If you’re facing challenges due to the cold snap and need emergency boarding for your beloved pet, call us now at 604-857-5055,” LAPS posted.

”Our compassionate team is ready to provide warmth and care for your animals.”

However, many homeless people were reluctant to turn over their animal companions, according to Snow, who arranged a distribution of donated pet blankets.

READ ALSO: Morning wind chill exceeds -20 C in Lower Mainland

Holland pointed to figures from the Homeless Count for Greater Vancouver, released in October, that show Langley is far behind neighbouring communities in providing emergency shelter from extreme weather.

“We have 15 EWR (Extreme Weather Response) beds within Langley that will shelter six per cent of our homeless population,” Holland estimated.

Prepared by the Homelessness Services Association of B.C., the 2023 count in Langley found 235 people were homeless, and 133 of them were listed as unsheltered, meaning they were sleeping outside, in a tent or makeshift shelter, in a vehicle, or temporarily staying with someone else who did have a conventional shelter.

Langley has 15 extreme weather spaces at the Gateway of Hope shelter to serve those 133, or 8.9 people for each available mat.

That is less than Surrey, which has 301 extreme weather response beds for an estimates 91 unhoused, for a ratio of 3.3 homeless per mat, or Vancouver, which has 605 EWR beds for an estimated 216 unhoused, a ratio of 2.8.

READ ALSO: More homeless being turned away from Langley’s shelter in bad weather

Those who can’t get indoors are being forced to improvise, Holland explained.

“You get some shopping carts full of stuff, throw a tarp over top of that, it’s a pretty good windbreak,” Holland explained.

“Unfortunately, it’s still really cold out. People will do what they do. They’ll try and find comfort somewhere and that’s not necessarily where an outreach team might be able to find them.”

“So many people are trying to find any way to get inside,” Holland commented.

“So maybe for a few hours, they’re staying with friends somewhere,” Holland suggested. “Maybe family are relenting for a short period of time and taking people in – they could be [staying] in vehicles if that’s if that’s possible.”

“It sounds horrible, but the saving grace might be that this was a dry cold, versus it being minus 10, minus 12 , minus 15 and it being wet outside [like Vancouver],” Holland added.

Snow said something needs to be done by the City and Township to create more emergency spaces.

“I just don’t get why after, all those years, they can’t figure out how to open a shelter,” Snow said.

“There’s so many empty buildings. You think somebody from the city would step up and say, ‘here, we can open this for you.’”

Snow praised those who have stepped up to help.

“The people in the community are freaking amazing,” Snow said.

“They brought blankets. They’re bringing warm stuff. It was just amazing.”

READ ALSO: Langley’s Gateway shelter opens daytime warming centre due to cold snap

Gateway of Hope opened its daytime warming centre from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and its overnight shelter was opened from 7 p.m. until 10 a.m.

Gateway of Hope, located at 5787 Langley Bypass, is wheelchair accessible and pet-friendly for pets on a leash. Dinner, breakfast, and lunch and are provided. Laundry service and showers are available.

Salvation Army Gateway of Hope can be reached at 604-514-7375.

Those needing assistance to a shelter are asked to call the RCMP at 604-532-3200.

For more information about shelter availability, please call BC211: 211 or 604-875-6381.

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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