In order to fund the extreme weather shelter (above)

City steps up, sponsors emergency shelter room

The city will kick in another round of funding towards operation of the community’s downtown Extreme Weather Shelter for the homeless.

At its Dec. 14 meeting, council agreed to provide $6,000 from its council contingency fund to sponsor a room in the shelter which can sleep 16 people among eight rooms.

Paul Mason, program manager at Campbell River Family Services, which operates the shelter, said since the room sponsorship program began, it’s been an overarching success.

“We started the funding initiative at the beginning of November to enable us to keep the shelter open every night for the five month winter period (Nov. 1 to March 31),” Mason wrote in a letter to city council. “The response from the community of Campbell River has once again been overwhelming.”

Mason said between private citizens, service clubs, and the business  community, Family Services is well on its way to achieving its fundraising goal of $48,000.

“Each one of the contributions comes with its own unique reason of why it was important to help the less fortunate in our city and whether it was $25 from a senior citizen or $6,000 from a successful construction company, the gesture was emotional and heartwarming,” Mason wrote.

He noted that Family Services recently received a sponsorship donation from the Wei Wai Kum First Nation for $5,000.

Mason said the acknowledgement is an important step in developing a partnership with the local First Nations community, particularly as a recent homeless count revealed that 52 per cent of unsheltered homeless are of Aboriginal descent.

The Strathcona Regional District has also pitched in to help, pledging $15,000 to go towards keeping the shelter open every night until March 31.

The city, in addition to last week’s room sponsorship, has also contributed $15,000 to renovate the shelter which Family Services recently bought for $1.

Mason credited the city for all of its help.

“Much of what we have achieved would not have been possible without the assistance of the mayor and council,” Mason wrote.

The shelter, which is this year located behind Radiant Life Church on Cypress Street, has been open every night since the beginning of November and provides the homeless with a heated room for the night, as well as a warm breakfast each morning and dinner at night.

BC Housing only provides funding to keep the shelter open on nights when the temperature falls below zero degrees Celsius or on an especially windy night – it’s been up to Family Services to go out and secure the money to keep the shelter open every other night.

Last winter, which was particularly mild, BC Housing only made up 25 to 35 per cent of the shelter’s operating funds – the rest was made up through donations and other local funding sources.

Mason said having the shelter open every night is important so that the homeless know they have a safe, warm place they can go to escape from the elements.

“When the shelter is closed, they disperse out into the community and you could lose a few people that way,” he said.