SURREY - Snow often evokes happy feelings or memories - memories of snowball fights as a young child or hot chocolate by the fire. But for those who don't have a place to call home, snow evokes a different feeling.
Following snowfall Thursday night, it's been announced that Surrey, Delta and White Rock extreme weather shelters (EWS) are opening on Friday evening and will stay open for the weekend.
"We were the highest used area in the Lower Mainland last year," said Peter Fedos, the extreme weather co-ordinator for Surrey, White Rock and Delta.
"Last year, in December, we spent 28 days open back to back."
Fedos set out an official alert early Friday morning, activating almost 100 beds for the homeless in the Surrey, Delta and White Rock area: 60 at the Surrey Urban Mission (13388 104th Ave.), 15 at Cloverdale Church (#102 17802 66th Ave.), nine at Ladner United Church (4960 48th Ave.) and 15 at White Rock First United Church (15385 Semiahmoo Ave.). An additional 45 beds are available, if required.
Those beds make up 99 of the 340 EWR spaces in the Greater Vancouver areas that have been activated.
The shelters, often run by volunteers and with the help of the Hyland House, are open dependent on the weather. Temperatures of -2C, significant snowfall, gusty winds or prolonged rain can trigger an opening.
The sites typically offer a warm place to sleep for a limited amount of time, a warm meal and if required, a one zone bus ticket.
It is anticipated that the extreme weather alert will be cancelled Monday morning at 7 a.m.
Fedos suspects the program won't have another call to open until December.
"It looks like we'll get away with November, but I don't know yet," he said, adding that he has to look at weather forecasts about two weeks in advance.
"The weather was getting touch to call last year, too. I'm guessing we have some climate change things going on."
Supplies are needed to operate the extreme weather shelters.
Probably most important items are blankets, Fedos said.
"Not quilts, but easy washable blankets that can be dried. I need something that's quick, dry and can keep people warm."
Fedos said they also need cough drops.
"People cough a lot, and that's a way of settling down their cough. It may be the only relief they get from their cough all day," Fedos said.
And after offering a warm place to sleep, it's nice to be able to send people away with gear to help in the cold.
"I'm doing a call for toques and socks and gloves."
Blankets and other donations can be dropped off at Hyland House, located at 6595 King George Blvd., where they will be distributed out to various shelters.