The cold front bringing record low temperatures to the Island this week has prompted the Comox Valley Regional District to activate an Extreme Weather Warming Centre at the CVRD’s Civic Room located at 770 Harmston Ave in Courtenay. This centre is preparing to be activated for four nights from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. from Dec. 26 – 29, based on a forecasted drop in temperature. The centre will be staffed with the appropriate personnel to ensure all proper safety precautions are adhered to. These facilities are wheelchair accessible.
“This is the first time we have had to use the building in this fashion,” said CVRD manager of emergency programs, Howie Siemens. “The Civic Room is the Comox Valley Regional District’s council and board room. It’s been designed to be a multi-purpose room … and this is our first opportunity to use it as a warming centre. The building (which opened in 2020) was built with the intention of supporting the community in any way possible so this is one of the concepts we will be working through.”
The capacity of Civic Room is 15 people, so the hope is that those in need will come in, warm up, have a hot drink, then be mindful of anyone outside who is waiting to come in.
“It is not a shelter, there are no beds, so we are doing this to give everybody the opportunity to get to warm up for a little bit during the evening hours, when it gets coldest,” said Siemens.
Connect Centre needs blankets
The Connect Warming Centre at (685 Cliffe Ave.) is open ‘nearly’ 24 hours a day, with mats for sleeping, and space for warming.
“We close it down for an hour in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon, to clean, but otherwise we are there all the time,” said Comox Valley Transition Society executive director, Heather Ney. “We have been filled every night.”
Ney said there is an immediate need for blankets, if anyone is wondering how they could help.
“Because the laundry hasn’t been open for the past two days, if anybody wants to drop extra blankets off today, that would be helpful. We like to also give them out to people who would prefer to stay outside but want an extra blanket”
The Connect Centre will be open throughout the cold snap, and hopefully through the winter.
“Staffing has been a challenge – there is a labour shortage for sure – but we had somewhat of a Christmas miracle here,” said Ney. “One of our former staff came back for the holidays and… has decided to return to the Valley and work for us. We also had someone from Island Health step up and help out.”
She said the Valley as a whole has helped out.
“The Comox Valley has done so much – we have been incredibly supported by people dropping off food and Christmas goodies and warm blankets,” said Ney. “We can continue to use those donations of coats and scarves and jackets, and large gloves in particular. Men’s large gloves.”
Anyone with any donations to drop off, the Connect Centre will be open until 5 p.m. and then again at 7:30 p.m. for the night.
Pidcock House in full operation
The Salvation Army Pidcock House (632 Pidcock Ave.) is also open.
There are 27 men’s beds there, including 12 extreme weather beds, and 14 women’s beds (six extreme weather beds).
Salvation Army Pastor Kevin Elsasser said all the men’s beds were used Christmas night, and there were three unused women’s beds.
“We could use new socks, hats, gloves, tents, sleeping bags and tarps,” said Elsasser, when asked how the community could help.
The forecast calls for temperatures to remain below freezing in the Comox Valley until the new year.
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