It seemed like spring was in the air on Thursday morning as the sun rose in a bright blue sky.
But it was minus-5 C and the end of a month-long cold snap that has made life tough for those on the street.
Thanks to the extreme weather response system, in which B.C. Housing funds shelters so they can put down emergency mats, homeless people at least have a place to spend the night when the temperature dips to minus-2 C.
But those mats are only available from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, which means during the daytime, it’s back on the street for those who are not registered full-time at the shelter.
That bothers Ted Hajdu, who points to a copy of the Metro Vancouver Extreme Weather Response Criteria, which says temperatures of -2 C are considered extreme in Maple Ridge.
He’s outside in the patio area of the Salvation Army, at just after 8 a.m., after spending the night on a mattress inside, one of 15 people who did so.
It was an early start because the mattresses have to be put away by 6:30 a.m. to make room for breakfast.
Hajdu won’t be able to get back inside until 8 p.m., when the mats are spread down on the floor again.
Making people wait outside in such weather is against Maple Ridge’s extreme weather response policy and against human rights, Hajdu said as he sits on a bench wrapped in two blankets and wearing two hoods.
“It’s now -5 C and we’re still outside,” he added.
“In terms of protecting and mitigating the threat of freezing … they’re doing nothing of the sort.”
Last week, those who were sleeping on the mattresses were also allowed to stay inside during the day, he pointed out.
“But now, we have to sit out here, 12 hours a day and freeze.”
Salvation Army spokesperson Amelia Norrie said the extreme weather response goes into effect when the night time temperature drops to -2 C. Sometimes, if the weather’s particularly bad, such as last week, people can stay inside during the day.
However, those using the mats can also go back inside for lunch at noon when the community meals are offered, five days a week.
But two days of the week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the community meal takes place in the evening, so they’d have to stay outside all day.
Recently, 15 people have been sleeping on the mats at night, which is capacity.
The emergency weather response will remain in place until Sunday, then will be evaluated day to day, depending on the weather.
If the extreme weather response ends, the mattresses no longer will be available and anyone who’s not staying at the Ridge Meadows Ministries 30-bed emergency shelter or who’s not staying at Rain City Housings’ 40-bed temporary homeless shelter, just half a block down on Lougheed Highway, will have to find cover.
Sean Spear, with RainCity, said the temporary homeless shelter is at capacity.
In December, RainCity turned away 48 people.
The only referral it can make is to the Salvation Army extreme weather response mats.
Spear said RainCity take in people on an emergency basis and try to help them, but there is always lack of a physical space in the shelter.
“If there’s a real crisis, we try to hold on to them for as long as we can and try to figure something out.”
Joe Bauman said he doesn’t know where he’ll sleep when the weather warms, but that he doesn’t want to leave Maple Ridge, adding that he was born here.
With the day facing them, Bauman said they would go to the library or mall or “anywhere security doesn’t kick us out of.”
Both are trying to find a permanent place to live, but the low apartment vacancy rate makes it difficult.
Landlords can be selective and anything out of place on a rental application can mean that suite is not available.
Neither use drugs and Hajdu, who’s on disability assistance because of heart and back problems, is also on the B.C. Housing registry.
He lost his previous apartment in May and has been at the Ridge Meadows Ministries off and on since then.