Campbell River Mirror

Homelessness coalition forks out funds for shelter

The city’s homeless will have a warm place to lay their heads every night this winter.

That’s because the city’s Homelessness Coalition has stepped forward to provide the necessary funding to extend the hours at the Extreme Weather Shelter, which operates out of the Salvation Army’s Lighthouse Centre on Cedar Street.

The Coalition will spend $45,000 to keep the shelter open from 7 p.m.-7 a.m. every single night from now until March 31.

Paul Mason, the chair of the Coalition, said the money will be taken from a $319,644 chunk of funding from the Vancouver Island Health Authority which is earmarked for developing housing for the homeless. The funding was being held for a 30-unit co-ed affordable housing facility, which Mason said the coalition still intends to build albeit a few years down the road.

“Our long-term vision hasn’t changed to develop low-income housing in Campbell River but there are immediate needs on the street level in regard to the homeless,” Mason said.“What we decided as a coalition is that 25 per cent of that money we will use for immediate projects. There are immediate needs on the street level in regard to the homeless. So we decided to use some of the funds to address the things we can do immediately and make an impact.”

Kevin Mack, Community Ministries Director with the Salvation Army which staffs the shelter, said this is the first time in the Salvation Army’s eight years of facilitating the program that it will be open every single night during the winter.

“It’s great news for those who need it,” Mack said. “They’ll be able to come out of the elements and we will be able to serve them a nice sit down meal.”

There are also 15 mats that provide a warm place to sleep for the night. The shelter, a community initiative, is a low barrier shelter meaning guests will not be turned away if under the influence of drugs and alcohol, though they must not pose a safety risk to themselves or others.

For the past several years the shelter has only been funded by BC Housing to stay open on nights when the temperature falls below freezing, as per the organization’s criteria. Last year the shelter was open for 100 nights with 993 beds used to provide shelter for 108 people.

Mack said having the shelter open every single night will also make it easier for guests who can’t always tell what the temperature is and if the shelter is open on any given night.

“When we don’t know honestly from one night to another that it’s going to open, that’s when there’s confusion,” Mack said.

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