COURTENAY, B.C. – More of the Comox Valley’s homeless are opting to sleep indoors as overnight temperatures dip well below freezing this week.

A ridge of high pressure is firmly in place, bringing sunny, cool days followed by cold, clear nights, with lows expected to dip to minus-3 C by midweek.

The Valley Extreme Weather Response Team activated the Extreme Weather Protocol (EWP) starting on Nov. 15 with a goal of getting Courtenay’s homeless population out of tents and inside the Salvation Army’s warm shelter.

At the Salvation Army Pidcock Emergency Centre at 632 Pidcock Ave., there are 18 beds in place – 12 for men and six for women – and when the EWP is issued, another 20 beds are added. The EWP will be in place until March 31.

On Monday night, all 18 of the shelter’s permanent beds were filled, and an additional six men used the emergency beds/mats, according to the Salvation Army’s community ministries director Brent Hobden.

“Even today, it’s pretty chilly out there,” Hobden said.

“And there’s a significant amount of our friends and neighbours that are living in tent cities that are scattered around the Comox Valley. It is a big concern, the word is getting out there, and we are starting to see a little bit more interest, so I’m sure as the winter progresses and it gets a little bit chillier, more and more people will be popping in.”

Hobden said there are “a number of different agencies” that are working together to get the word out to the valley’s homeless population, that there is an option to go indoors during this particularly freezing week.

Meanwhile, Hobden said the tents that were set up on 8th Street and Menzies Avenue – where the new supportive housing to be operated John Howard Society is being built – are no longer there.

“Those people have bene relocated,” he said. “Some of them have come into the shelter.”