White Rock extreme-weather shelter at Star of the Sea Hall (15262 Pacific Ave.) is expected to remain open for the coming week, as below-freezing temperatures are forecast to continue. (File photo)

Twenty-seven bunk at White Rock extreme-weather shelter

Pets welcome as quest to escape below-freezing temperatures expected to continue

Below-freezing weather brought 27 people to White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter over the weekend, after temperatures dipped to -6.9C overnight.

READ MORE: Extreme-weather shelters open throughout Surrey, White Rock

The City of Surrey issued an extreme-weather alert on Sunday, after temperatures were forecast to drop below -6C, with a 60 per cent chance of flurries.

Joan McMurtry, who is volunteer co-ordinator for the White Rock shelter, said Monday that 17 people hunkered down on Sunday, and another 10 sought the warmth the night before.

“It’s about average,” McMurtry said of Sunday’s turnout.

“Saturday night, we only had 10 people, but that was kind of just the beginning of this cold.”

The shelter – which operates out of Star of the Sea Hall, due to development plans for the nearby First United Church site – only opens during extreme-weather events or if temperatures dip close to zero

Conditions triggered the opening on three days in November, 29 days in December and 19 days in January.

McMurtry predicts the shelter will continue to be needed in the days ahead.

“We just look at the weather and we think we’re going to be open for the next week or so.”

According to Environment Canada, temperatures tonight (Monday) are forecast to drop to -8C, with the windchill dropping that a further five degrees to -13C overnight. Wednesday is to see a low of -3C, and flurries are a possibility Thursday night.

Statistics from late November show more men than women access the White Rock shelter, and that pets are routinely in tow – additions McMurtry described as “pretty important companions” that aren’t going to be turned away.

“Otherwise, (people seeking shelter) won’t come in,” she said. “They’re not going to leave their dog outside.

“We’ve really had a very positive experience with that,” she added.

Typically, the shelter averages 17-18 people per night. December notched a record, with 26 guests on one night alone.

READ MORE: White Rock extreme-weather shelter reports record attendance

McMurtry noted that donations of winter mittens, gloves and coats are still needed. She appealed to those who consider pitching in to keep in mind that the items are for extreme-weather conditions.

“They need to be warm and wet-proof,” she said. “What’s helpful is a warm, wind-proof parka… substantially warm and wind and wet-proof coats.”

Items may be dropped off to the Peninsula United head quarters at 15639 24 Ave. For information on volunteering, McMurtry may be reached at 604-538-2049.

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