Cranbrook city hall. Photo by Trevor Crawley.

City of Cranbrook refutes report of unhoused deaths due to exposure

The City of Cranbrook is pushing back against recent social media rumours of unhoused individuals dying from exposure to the elements, as temperatures drop to -30C at nights this week.

“There have not been any deaths due to exposure to cold in Cranbrook during this weather event,” reads the statement. “This information is fact-checked, and has been confirmed by both Interior Health and the BC Coroner Service, and is accurate as of today (Dec. 22).”

As extreme cold temperatures covered much of the B.C. Interior this week, the Cranbrook Alliance Church opened as an emergency overnight warming centre for a few days to supplement operations at the Travelodge, where BC Housing and Community Connections Society of Southeast B.C. operate a shelter for temporary overnight stays, which also provides meals, clothing and many other services for shelter guests.

Since the Alliance Church opened its doors on Tuesday (Dec. 20), 10 individuals have used the emergency warming space; six overnight Tuesday, and four overnight on Wednesday (Dec. 21), according to the city.

While First Baptist Church also initially opened up as well, it shifted resources and support to the Alliance church after not receiving any shelter guests overnight Tuesday.

The Alliance Church emergency warming centre will wrap up operations on Friday (Dec. 23).

On Monday (Dec. 20), Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka issued a public plea for assistance in responding to the needs of th city’s vulnerable population as temperatures began to drop to extreme lows, citing concerns about an ‘apparent’ death.

Temperatures are expected to rise heading into the weekend, however, significant snowfall is in the forecast over the next several days.

“The City, along with our community partners remain concerned about the impact of the cold on our vulnerable population this winter,” continues the statement. “We will actively monitor the weather conditions through the winter months and continue to offer our support to third-party groups and non-profit organizations in order to provide warming centres and spaces as necessary for those who may need it.”

According to an update from BC Housing officials earlier in December during a city council meeting, the Travelodge shelter operates 45 beds and eight nightly drop-in beds that have served over 203 unique individuals since April. The shelter, which is staffed 24/7, also provides warm meals, clothing and other supports for shelter guests.

Efforts are underway to establish a permanent year-round shelter, with progress expected in the coming months, according to BC Housing.