THE city’s cold weather shelter has re-opened barely a week after it was closed.
Run by the Ksan House Society the 20-bed shelter closed Feb. 26, a month earlier than planned because of warmer temperatures and less moisture than anticipated.
But when the weather turned rainy and colder the middle of last week, the decision was made to re-open it on March 3, says society executive director Amanda Bains.
“We have a contract that says it needs to be certain temperatures to be open and so if the weather doesn’t fall within that we close,” said Bains of the original closure decision, which is tied to the contract that the society has with the provincial B.C. Housing agency.
“It’s not me saying that I think people can stay outside, sleep in the bush, it’s that we have to follow the rules of our contract,” she said.
But instead of renting space at the All Nations Centre on Sparks St. close to downtown, the society is instead using a room at its southside Hall St. complex which also contains the society’s year-round shelter.
That decision was based on the society not having a Northern Health Authority permit to use the kitchen at the All Nations Centre.
Bains said the permitting issue came as a surprise because the the emergency shelter had been using the kitchen without a permit at the All Nations Centre for several winters.
For about a week before the Feb. 26 closure, staff had been handing out coupons for McDonald’s breakfasts instead of providing one themselves.
Due to the time it would have taken to get the permit and the fact the contract with BC Housing expires March 31 anyway, Bains said the decision was made to use a meeting room at the Hall St. complex.
In the long term, Bains says Ksan Society hopes to purchase a building in the downtown core that will be a more suitable location for the cold weather shelter.
She said the All Nations Centre facility was not ideal for an overnight shelter and she looks forward to finding a permanent home with the possibility of staying open year round and even expanding to include a detox centre.
The extreme weather shelter is popularly called a “damp shelter” because it provides beds for people who have been drinking, something not permitted for people using the Ksan society’s regular shelter.
The contracts of the B.C. Housing’s extreme weather shelter call for them to be open from early-November to the end of March each year but the shelter opened in October last year because of colder weather and in anticipation of high demand.
So far this season, the shelter has averaged 10 occupants a night.
Soon after the Feb. 26 shelter closure, Terrace RCMP reported finding people sleeping in ATM vestibules located at the entrances to financial institutions.
“Numerous bank vestibules were noted with people inside attempting to keep warm due to lack of other options,” read a March 1 RCMP report.
According to the Northern Health Authority, environmental health officers visit all public kitchens around town to make sure they are complying with rules and regulations.
“We are working collaboratively with Ksan House Society and have been for quite some time,” said Northern Health Authority official Jonathon Dyck. “Our environmental health officer has a relationship with that society and works with them on a variety of various things as they would with any operator of a kitchen.”
Dyck continued saying that in general, “if you are operating food premise, there are permits that are required through the environmental health officer.”
As of late last week, Bains says the year to date cost of the extreme shelter is $79,447.44. Last year, the total cost by March 31, 2015 was $70,000.
Now that the extreme shelter is contained in the regular shelter facility the society won’t have to pay rent to use the All Nations Centre, she said.
Those using the extreme weather shelter at the new location have new mats on which to sleep, replacing older cots which were folded up and stored during the day.
The All Nations Centre on Sparks is owned by a society backed by the Seventh Day Adventist Church which operates a soup kitchen on Sunday. During the week days it is rented by the Terrace and District Community Services Society which also offers food and programs for homeless and others.
CLARIFICATION. The Terrace Standard story posted March 8, 2016 on the closing and re-opening of the Ksan Housing Society’s extreme weather shelter neglected one piece of important information. And that is that any consideration of a detox centre by the Ksan House Society could only be accomplished in partnership with the Northern Health Authority.