A local emergency shelter run by the Ksan House Society during the winter weather months has opened earlier than normal because of this fall’s particularly inclement weather and the lack of space at the society’s regular housing shelter.
While the society is receiving BC Housing operating money from Nov. 1 onward, which is the first official date for extreme weather shelters across the province, it has yet to receive outside financial assistance for the early opening which began Oct. 9.
Ksan society housing director Elaine McGillivray said the decision to open early came out of a meeting with BC Housing officials in early October.
“They said we should do it,” said McGillvray of discussion at the meeting, which concentrated on the demand for shelter given the cold and wet conditions this fall. “We wanted to get people off the streets.”
The society’s regular shelter on Hall Street has 22 spots and the demand exceeds their supply.
The winter weather shelter at the All Nations Centre on Sparks, officially called the extreme weather shelter, has 20 spaces for both men and women and opens for the nighttime only.
“Last night we had 15 people and our average is running anywhere from 10 to 15,” said McGillvray during an Oct. 30 interview of attendance the first three weeks.
A spring count within the city this year determined there were 74 people considered homeless.
The winter weather shelter is also called the damp shelter because unlike the regular shelter, it accepts people who have been drinking. But any alcohol must be turned in before entering the All Nations Centre.
Those admitted to the shelter sleep on pads which are rolled up and stored when not in use.
This is the second year the Ksan society has used the All Nations Centre.
It effectively means the building is used 24 hours a day. That is because its owner, a society backed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, uses it for a soup kitchen Sundays and leases it out week days for programs run by the Terrace and District Services Society.
“They have to be out by 8 a.m.,” said McGillivray of the overnight occupants. “But the other programs open very soon after that.”
While Ksan House Society may not have officially asked for financial help for opening early, BC Housing information indicates the province will cover additional costs if budgets are exceeded due to extended poor weather this winter.
Budget allocations cover fixed costs such as rent and utilities and also per person costs because, in the case of the Terrace shelter, each person receives food when checking in and then breakfast the next day.
The Ksan extreme weather shelter was open for 133 days last year between Nov. 6, 2014 and March 31, 2015 at a cost of approximately $70,000.
The average occupancy rate was 55 per cent of the 20 sleeping spaces available.
In all, there were 1,471 nightly stays over the 133 days at the extreme weather shelter with 22 being the highest number to stay at one time and four being the lowest number.