Homeless shelters in Vancouver are making room for extra overnight guests as winter’s first cold snap hit the city over the weekend.

The Union Gospel Mission has increased shelter staff and is ready to use hallways or classrooms to house people, said senior Chaplain Bruce Curtiss.

“We’ve already exceeded our usual shelter limit of 37 guests every day this last week, with 45 on most days,” Curtiss said. “Our goal is to not turn anyone away.”

Curtiss said the mission is also distributing emergency kits with waterproof blankets, toques, socks and mitts to people who refuse to come inside as the temperature dips below zero.

“This ... survival kit may mean the difference between life and death for the most entrenched homeless,” he said. Meanwhile, the province has made available 312 extra shelter spaces in Vancouver and North Vancouver when extreme weather alerts are activated.

Rich Coleman, minister of housing, said it’s up to communities to decide what conditions warrant an extreme-weather alert.

Vancouver and North Vancouver have 703 year-round shelter beds plus 340 temporary HEAT shelter beds. Most permanent shelters are now open day and night.

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