(Special to The News)

Maple Ridge’s Salvation Army ready for extreme weather

Cold weather program starts as winter moves in

Winter is rolling into the Fraser Valley during the holiday season, and the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministry is making sure people who live on the streets are taken care of with their cold weather program.

Mark Stewart, the executive director of the Maple Ridge branch, said that means there will be extra beds made available – and even people who have been banned in the past are not turned away.

“We have not barriers. The most important thing is to get people in, get them warm, get them dry, and get them a hot drink,” he said.

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Guests are served breakfast and leave with a bagged lunch.

On Tuesday there were 80 people in the shelter, which is near the full capacity of 90. There are another 25 beds available in a building across the street at 22239 Lougheed Highway, and it will be opened if the low temperatures, rain and snow drive more people indoors.

The forecast calls for low temperatures of around zero on the next three nights, dropping to -6C on Dec. 25 and -9C on Dec. 26, according to environment Canada. There is rain and snow in the forecast, with snow on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Sally Anne shelters around the province are preparing to save people from the cold.

“The cold weather is especially hard on people living on the streets,” says Salvation Army spokesperson Mike Leland. “Many of these individuals already deal with health conditions that can be worsened and even become fatal when the temperature drops drastically.”

Stewart asks the public to keep an eye out for homeless people who need to get warm. All are welcome.

“If they see anybody out there struggling, please send them are way and we’ll keep them safe for the night.”

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