“Take care of yourselves – and each other.”
That advice from the B.C. Coroners’ Service, which is urging everyone to be careful in the cold weather.
Spokesperson Barb McLintock says this warning comes after three people have died from what appears to be cold weather causes.
“The unfortunate lady who was found in the tent, under the snow in the Chillwack area. There was two up in the Cariboo-Chilcotin; one gentleman in his 50’s, who was found outside in very, very cold weather. And another gentleman in his 50’s who had quite a number of health issues as well, but who was found in a very, very cold house, just outside of Williams Lake.”
McLintock says they’re still trying to rule out other possible factors contributing to death in all three cases.
Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz calls the possible cold weather death at the homeless camp a very tragic story.
“We will work with the province to try to eradicate homeless camps. We know the people inside the homeless camps are often exposed to terrible weather conditions, to unsanitary conditions, and they’re often exposed to violence,” she says.
Gaetz says the situation is dire, but insists her city has enough beds for everyone who needs one, and won’t turn anyone away.
In this case, Gaetz says she’s been told anecdotally that some of the people at the camps choose to stay outside because the shelters don’t allow drugs to be used there.
READ MORE: Fire breaks out at Chilliwack homeless camp
Meanwhile, down valley, the situation in Abbotsford is also becoming dire.
One young homeless man in his 20s is now facing the possibility of losing a toe or a finger because of the bitter cold.
“He was with a bunch of other folks that have not come in from the cold and unfortunately he got frostbite really bad. They had to peel him off the sidewalk,” says Pastor Ward Draper with the 5 and 2 Ministries.
Draper says the man is lucky to be alive, but says it’s just one example of many in the city, where he says many local homeless campers are freezing.
“Our friends’ hands are swollen and dry and they can’t use their basic appendages just because of the cold,” he says.
He says at one homeless camp alone there’s 12 to 15 people who are fully exposed to the elements of minus-8 to minus-9 degree weather.
On Wednesday, fire crews were called to a homeless camp in Chilliwack, where flames broke out among the tents where campers were trying to stay warm.
With files from Matt Lee and Ria Renouf