Working through the North Vancouver Island Aboriginal Training Society

Sponsor a room in the extreme weather shelter

The container provides warm, secure beds for up to 16 people a night in downtown Campbell River

Campbell River’s innovative extreme-weather shelter is getting noticed as an innovative and effective way to serve the community’s homeless population.

And now, Campbell River Family Services (CRFS) has hit on an innovative way to fund the operation of the moveable shelter which it now owns after buying it for a dollar from the company that built it.

Paul Mason of CRFS fields calls from all over North America about the converted shipping container which has proven to be a success in providing a safe haven for the community’s street people during bad weather.

“In the last two years in Campbell River, nobody has died on the streets,” Mason said.

This is an accomplishment and it’s thanks to the converted 40-foot shipping container.

For each of the last two winters, from November through March, the container provided warm, secure beds for up to 16 people a night in downtown Campbell River.

The container’s future was in some doubt as the lot on which it was located was involved in a land swap and is being developed. The container qualifies for BC Housing support but that is funding only for nights when conditions meet its extreme-weather criteria, i.e., temperatures below zero. The rest of the time, the operation of the shelter is funded by CRFS which seeks donations from the community.

Well, CRFS is on the hook for the shelter even more now because it is now the proud owner of the shelter. The company that converted it from a shipping container and donated it for use in Campbell River, Shadow Lines Transportation, went a step further this month and sold it to CRFS for a dollar. For legal reasons, the container has to be sold and not given away.

Mason quipped that when he was called by Shadow Lines and told they were willing to sell it for a dollar, he dug into his pockets and said he thought he had just about enough change to cover it.

Owning the shelter means they can now do with it what they will but it also means money has to be raised to operate it. Each year a Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser is held to generate part of the funds and that will be held in January again this year.

But Mason has hit on a new way of covering the costs of operating the shelter. CRFS is seeking businesses, groups or individuals who are willing to sponsor a room for a season of use. The cost of operating a room in the shelter which provides two bunk beds and food each day for two people is $6,000 for a season lasting November to March.

“Now that we own it, it’s ours,” Mason said. “Every penny will go to the operation of this shelter.”

The shelter has been undergoing some renovation to get it ready for this winter through the help of $15,000 ffrom the city, businesses donating supplies and programs like the North Vancouver Island Aboriginal Training Society providing the workers (who, in return, get experience and develop skills).

Any organization or business that wants to sponsor a room can contact Mason at 250-287-2421. He is also willing to meet your group and provide a presentation on the shelter.

Mason said the shelter was sold to CRFS but he feels it really belongs to the community because that’s who supports it.

“On paper, it belongs to CR Family Services but the community owns it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mason takes calls from people like the emergency response manager of the County of San Mateo, California.

“She wants to chat about the work being done in Campbell River,” Mason said. “It just shows that we’re getting recognition in Campbell River for what we have done for the last two years. We’ve made this thing happen.”