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BC Housing does an about-face to reopen Terrace damp shelter

The province reversed its decision over concerns of cooler, wetter weather
Miriam McKay poses with people affected by the extreme weather shelter’s closure outside the TDCSS Soup Kitchen on April 4. She estimates around 30 people were left without a place to stay in Terrace when the shelter’s contract with BC Housing expired March 31. Because of colder and wetter weather, the contract was extended by one month April 8. (Brittany Gervais photo)

BC Housing has extended funding of a Terrace damp shelter for one month just days after the regular spring closure.

The Ksan Society’s extreme weather shelter provides 23 beds from November 1 to March 31. The shelter closed as usual on April 1 this year, but within days the province reversed its decision over concerns of cooler, wetter weather and a shortage of beds in all other facilities.

“Initially it was determined that the EWR shelter would close on March 31, per usual schedule, based on the weather at the time,” BC Housing wrote in an email to the Terrace Standard. “This is determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on community need and weather considerations.”

The shelter will now be open until May 8 from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Ksan Society executive director Amanda Bains says the shelter was full the first day it reopened.

“Our extreme weather shelter is usually at capacity so it takes pressure off from our other shelters and gives people a place to sleep until we can house them,” she says.

READ MORE: Terrace homeless count nears 100

For four days after the shelter’s closure, advocate Miriam McKay carried bags of donated blankets, jackets and sweaters to greet around a dozen of homeless people in Terrace as they gathered for a hot bowl of soup and a warm place to shelter from the rain at the Terrace and District Community Services Society (TDCSS) Soup Kitchen.

Nicknamed “Sugar Bear” by many of her homeless clients, McKay handed out the donations with a smile, greeting everyone by name. This was her fourth day doing this since the Ksan Society damp shelter closed.

“I know all of these people from growing up in this town. These are my friends, my family. I’m doing my best to help them out,” McKay says.

When the shelter closed, the Ksan Society’s other shelter on Hall St. had opened up an overflow room capable of fitting nine more people to accommodate the demand.

Though most of the clients who access the extreme weather shelter were supposed to be housed by now inside the supportive housing complex on Olsen Ave.

Originally scheduled to be complete by last November, swamp-like conditions on site have delayed the supportive housing project’s completion for months. With 24/7 support services, the project is thought to be a life-line for Terrace’s homeless population. So far, the society has received 102 applications for the 52 units available.

“It’s been frustrating because we’ve been waiting for this since November 1, and we’re very excited to be getting this project but it’s just been hard. It’s sad to say that we may be looking at June 1 now — that’s a huge delay on something that is supposed to be rapid,” says Bains.

READ MORE: Supportive housing project delayed until end of winter

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Miriam McKay poses for a selfie while handing out donations to people downtown. (Contributed photo)
Advocate Miriam McKay hands out jackets, sweaters, blankets and other donations to people in need gathered at the TDCSS Soup Kitchen on April 4, four days after the Ksan Society’s extreme weather shelter closed. (Brittany Gervais photo)