This year’s edition of the city’s Extreme Weather Shelter for the homeless is up and running and the results are in.
“They love it,” said Paul Mason, a co-ordinator with Campbell River Family Services. “They feel safe in it, they’re warm.
“When you give people the option of sleeping outside or in a cardboard box, they’ll take the cardboard box.”
The ‘cardboard box’ is really a trailer made from a steel shipping container with eight separate units that each sleep two people.
Each unit has heat and there is one shared bathroom.
Each person that spends the night in the shelter is given a pair of fleece pyjamas as well as blankets, sandwiches and hot coffee, followed by a warm breakfast the next morning.
The shelter opened Nov. 1.
“It was just in time because it was torrential rain Friday night,” Mason said. “We just got it done in the nick of time, it’s been bloody cold at night.”
Mason said seven clients used the shelter on both Friday and Saturday night and 12 people used the shelter on Sunday.
“That’s 12 people off the street,” Mason said. “Word’s getting around.”
The shelter is open every night, 7 p.m.-7 a.m. from now until March 31, 2014 and is operated by Radiant Life Church on the city-owned gravel lot next to the downtown fire hall.
Two Radiant Life workers staff the shelter every night until midnight to provide assistance while one worker remains from midnight until 7 a.m.
Mason said safety procedures are in place for the workers, including phone check-ins with the local transition house.
Mason said so far everything is going smoothly and the support from the community has been amazing.
“The amount of people and companies in this town who have jumped on board to help, it’s been absolutely amazing,” said Mason, who wants to thank the businesses who have helped deliver building supplies and gravel to and from the shelter site.
The only wrinkle has been in Mason trying out the shelter for himself.
Mason, along with Mayor Walter Jakeway and Camille Lagueux, the executive director of Family Services, intended to spend a night in one of the units prior to the shelter opening on Nov. 1.
But delays in getting the shelter up and running forced the trio to scrap their plans.
“I’m not going to take up a bed that a homeless person can use because of a publicity stunt,” Mason said. “I want to ensure there’s a spot for someone who truly needs it.”
Jakeway said the same thing.
“The set up has been so delayed by council that if we stay in it overnight now then legitimate homeless will be denied a warm place,” Jakeway said.
Though council was first presented with a proposal from Radiant Life Church at its Oct. 8 meeting to locate the shelter next to the fire hall, council received the request just prior to the start of the meeting.
Council wanted more information from city staff on the ramifications of using the site and as a consequence, had to wait until the Oct. 22 council meeting to give final approval to the church. Radiant Life then had to wait for final approval from the fire department before opening the shelter to the public.
The final piece is new lighting and a storage shed. The city already has a few light standards available and the city’s electrical contractor is willing to hook up the lights free of charge to two existing lamp standard bases at the fire hall.
As for the storage shed, intended to store clients’ backpacks and shopping carts, Mason is asking anyone who may be able to donate a wooden garden shed to call Radiant Life Church.
The church is also looking for sponsors to contribute $30 towards heating the shelter for a night.
To donate a shed or sponsor heat, call Radiant Life Pastor Art Van Holst at 250-830-0190.