Campbell River has everything it needs to open and operate an extreme weather shelter this year, except the people to run it.
The Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness is putting out a call for people interested in helping out at an extreme weather shelter this winter.
“Last year when the call went out, the community was able to rally all of the pieces of an extreme weather shelter — a facility, an operational plan, partnerships, transportation and storage for people’s belongings, however, we were unable to recruit enough staff to even open it partially,” said Sue Moen, part of the Coordinating Circle and Supporting Housing Services Manager for the Salvation Army.
To prevent something similar this year, the coalition is hoping to recruit people from the community to help out in any way they can.
“We’ve been talking since then, and we think that there are probably many, many people out there who are interested and willing to be part of it, but don’t know what’s involved and are worried about the amount of commitment they may have to make,” Moen said. “If we’re looking at people who are retired or semi-retired, if we’re looking at students or people that are only looking for one or two shifts a week… We don’t care, as a community, if our workforce is 30 people, as long as all the shifts are covered and everybody is comfortable and safe, and folks have the opportunity to get inside for hygiene, warmth, a good night’s sleep and something to eat.”
They are not looking for anyone with existing skill sets, as any volunteers will be given an orientation and training before the shelter opens. However, things like crisis communication, non-violent crisis intervention, experience with mental health issues or dealing substance use are beneficial. The training provided will cover all of those aspects. The coalition also hopes to recruit people with lived or living experience with homelessness who can help people with less experience address people and de-escalate any tensions.
“It’s recognizing that there is a need, that human beings have a right to shelter and to be treated with dignity and respect,” Moen said. “If they have those, it’ll work out.”
The shelter was not able to operate last year, but in previous years, Moen said that the facility was often full or close to full. The main hurdle for people was getting to the site and ensuring their belongings were safe overnight.
“Part of people’s challenge has always been barriers to accessing the extreme weather shelter… for many years it has operated within the emergency shelter. That’s a significant distance from the downtown core,” she said. “People just can’t bring all of their belongings, and don’t want to risk losing their belongings. They don’t come. They put themselves at risk. We figured out a plan for that last year in arranging storage and transportation. We can then remove those barriers as much as possible.”
“Last year a lot of people were asking why this didn’t happen, and it was the lack of people. We have everything except the willing, good hearted bodies,” she said. “We can put policies and procedures, health and safety protocols, we can put all of that in place, but if we don’t have the people willing to come in and staff the service, then we lose the opportunity to provide people with relief.”
Those interested in helping out can contact the Coalition to End Homelessness by email at email@example.com. The Coalition is in discussion with BC Housing and other agencies to set up a community information night for potential volunteers.