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Council approves 24-hour cold-weather shelter operations

Plus: Burnaby resident Joey Pogoy is recognized at Monday’s council meeting for winning an Emmy Award for animation

During its first meeting of 2024, Burnaby City Council voted unanimously to maintain the city’s emergency response to the cold weather system that has brought freezing temperatures to the Lower Mainland over the past week and is expected to bring more snow and ice to Burnaby this week. 

Burnaby resident Joey Pogoy won an Emmy last December for animation. Photo: WildBrain Studios

A report submitted by the general managers of planning and development and community safety requested an amendment to the license agreement with BC Housing to maintain the operations of the winter shelter at 7320 Buller Avenue at 24 hours a day until April 30, 2024. The report also requested that BC Housing, Progressive Housing Society, the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby, Fraser Health Authority, and the Mayor’s Task Force on Unsheltered Community Members be informed of the changes. 

The changes aim to extend and continue operations at the shelter to meet the high demand during the cold weather season. During the meeting Monday night, Dave Critchley, general manager of community safety at the city, said the shelter is currently full. 

“It’s been at capacity for three nights now,” he said. 

Coun. Richard Lee asked if showers were available for people accessing the shelter, to which Critchley responded that the city is looking into it with Progressive Housing and BC Housing. “The goal is to explore what we can do to arrange for shower facilities,” he said. He added that it had not been possible to add showers prior to the shelter filling up due to the situation’s urgency. 

Coun. Alison Gu pointed out that the city will not provide funding for the extra hours. “I just wanted to note for the benefit of everybody, the public and those who may be watching, that the additional hours of funding would be provided by the provincial government, so this has no cost to Burnaby residents,” she said. She added that making the shelter available is important in light of the cold snap and the weather forecast of eight days of continuous rain, which will increase the risk of unsheltered people getting wet and then struggling to stay warm. 

Burnaby RCMP officer holding a care pack the RCMP has been handing out to community members seeking shelter this winter. Photo: Burnaby RCMP

“I am very thankful to staff for all the hard work that was put into this and considering that the funding is in place and Progressive Housing has the operational capacity, there really is no reason not to support this,” Gu said.  

Coun. Maita Santiago, who chairs the Mayor’s Task Force on Unsheltered Community Members, also expressed approval for the extension of operations at the Buller Avenue shelter. 

“I am pleased to see this come forward,” Santiago said. “There were real concerns about the situation of the unhoused in our community.” She added that the task force will be presenting its recommendations to council soon. 

“Looking forward to what will come out of that to address the situation so that every year we don’t feel like we’re playing catch-up and we’re trying to come up with bandaid solutions.”  

During the meeting, the council proclaimed January as Tamil Heritage Month in Burnaby, with the proclamation saying it is “an important month for Tamil people living in Burnaby, as the Tamil Harvest Festival, Thai Pongal, takes place in January.” 

Coun. Santiago also mentioned that Burnaby resident Joey Pogoy won the Individual Achievement in Animation award for Character Animation at the Dec. 17 2023 Children’s and Family Emmys.. Pogoy is a senior animator at WildBrain Studios in Vancouver, and he won the Emmy for his work on the Sonic Prime TV series.  

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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