Emergency shelters are temporary but immediate places to stay for anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness. With our partners, BC Housing offers shelters across the province of British Columbia.
Types of shelters
There are three types of emergency shelters that BC Housing helps manage:
- Year-round shelters
- Temporary shelters
- Extreme weather winter shelters
What to expect
A typical stay at an emergency shelter includes a bed with linens, hot meals, showers, laundry and support services. It may range from one night to longer depending on your needs.
People who stay at emergency shelters can be diverse, with a range of needs and abilities. Staff require appropriate behaviour, but each shelter’s requirements can be different. Minimal-barrier shelters set few requirements to accommodate the most vulnerable people with the most need. High-barrier shelters set different requirements.
- None. Services are free.
- You are an individual or family that does not have a permanent address or residence.
- You are living and sleeping in public spaces including on the street.
- You need a place to stay after you left a hospital, rehabilitation centre, treatment centre or correctional facility.
- You need a place to stay in extremely wet or cold winter weather.
- You need a place to stay because you left a situation where you were exploited financially, sexually, physically or emotionally.
- You are living in a temporary situation where you don’t know how long you can stay, for example at a friend’s house, or in a place without a rental agreement.
- You have less than three months to find a new place to stay after your landlord gave you notice to move out.
- Shelters are for adults aged 19 years and older.
- Some shelters may have special facilities for youth, older adults, elders and seniors.
Most shelters are open to men, women and people who identify in the LGBTQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited) spectrum. For safety and security concerns, some shelters may restrict their availability only to women (female-identified) or to parents with children.
Shelters are open to everyone regardless of ethnicity, religion, physical disability and mental health status. Each shelter has its own policy related to behaviour as it relates to the health and safety of staff and other visitors. A high-barrier shelter will have more requirements than a minimal-barrier shelter.
Emergency shelters provide a place to sleep, eat and wash. Some shelters offer additional services.
Shelters provide some or all of these basic services:
- Bedding mattress or pad, pillow, blanket and linens
- Shower and laundry towel, soap, shampoo, toothbrush, deodorant, menstrual products for women
- Laundry washing facilities for clothes and linens
- Three meals a day
- Access to support staff and personalized help from a case worker
- Staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week (year-round shelters only)
- Secure area for belongings
Some shelters may offer these additional services:
- Safety separated sleeping areas for men and women
- Secure area for storing larger items such as shopping carts
- Accepts pets
- Operating hours curfew to limit late-night arrivals that might disturb sleep
- Common area a place to meet and connect with other people
- Medical support a nurse or physician visit
- Resource room lounge, library, computers, phone, TV
- Kitchen shared appliances
- Clothes and toys clothes, shoes and childcare items
- Culture support and connection for people who speak other languages
- Access to support staff and individualized help from a case worker
Length of stay – Emergency shelters are temporary accommodation. During your stay, a case worker will work with you to find more appropriate permanent housing.
Hours of operation – Most shelters operate 24 hours a day, but each shelter sets its own hours for accepting new arrivals.
- Year-round Emergency Shelters
- Open year-round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Temporary Winter Shelters
- Generally open November 1 to April 30
- Closed from May 1 to October 31
- Extreme Weather Response Shelters
- Open in the winter when a local community declares an alert, under the Assistance to Shelter Act, that sleeping outside could threaten health and safety
- During an alert they are open every night
- Quickly locate a shelter and its address, phone number and number of beds
- The map displays shelters that are open
- It does not show which open shelters are full or have beds available
Tip: Phone the shelters first if you can. Most shelters are staffed 24 hours a day, but each shelter sets its own hours for accepting new arrivals.
Find a drop-in centre where you can wash, do laundry and use other services.
More shelter options – If a shelter is full, the staff will guide you to other options. Note, they may not be shelters or facilities associated with BC Housing.
- For women fleeing violence
- Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Squamish to Lillooet, Sunshine Coast
- Call 2-1-1
- Online – search at bc211.ca
- Metro Vancouver shelter list
- Call 2-1-1
- Online – go to Vancouver and surrounding area homeless shelters (updated daily)