Living rough on the streets of Vernon is difficult at the best of times – but that hardship is magnified the colder it gets outside.
With winter's first blast sending overnight lows into the double negative digits, a warming bus program has been put in place to help those without a roof over their head.
Turning Points Collaborative Society's Randene Wejr says the program is activated when temperatures reach -10 C or colder.
Environment Canada is calling for double-digit nighttime lows for the next few days.
Wejr says there are more than 100 people living on the streets of Vernon, and with shelters running at capacity the bus provides an opportunity to get out of the cold for at least a few hours.
"They drive around to areas where they know there may be some camps, and they also provide the RCMP and our shelter with the driver's cellphone number in case there are people we are aware of somewhere they can give him a call, and he will be able to go to that spot and pick the person up," says Wejr.
The bus operates from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. nightly.
Riders are provided with a warm drink and in the morning are given some money to buy a coffee and morning snack.
Even before the cold weather hit, Vernon shelters were at capacity.
"We have been doing turn-aways for 18 months," says Wejr.
"We just don't have the space, unfortunately. We are having to hand out tarps and tents and sleeping bags. It's just a terrible situation. We don't have the housing we need, so they have to live outside. There is nowhere for them to go."
Wejr says many of the local homeless could be in a home in an affordable housing market – but there is no housing available they can afford.
Earlier this month, service providers sent letters to B.C. officials decrying the desperate need for more housing and supports to get people off the streets.