Kitimat extreme weather shelter opens for the year

Organizers emphasize need for volunteers and for donations, particularly of socks.

The committee behind Kitimat’s Extreme Weather Shelter is happy to have the funding secured from BC Housing to re-open the facility this year.

The shelter was formally opened November 1, and will run until March 31.

As was done last year the shelter will be running seven days a week, opening at 8 p.m. and closing at 8 a.m. the following morning.

In the shelter’s first year, when it operated in the Public Safety Building, it would only be opened when the town declared extreme weather, which was a combination of factors including temperature and rain fall.

This year it will again run in the basement of the Kitimat Baptist Church.

To get the program going the shelter’s committee, operating formally under the Kitimat Child Development Centre, received funding of $64,000. That money will help go towards hiring staff who will work the shelter each night.

But the safety guidelines of the shelter means they want at least two people on-site each night, so the group is looking for interested people to assist in volunteering as well.

Training is provided to those who sign up.

Committee member Margaret Warcup says the need for a weather shelter is “a recognition our community has changed.”

Demand remains, she said, even if Kitimat doesn’t have the same housing pressures as it did last year during peak of the KMP construction. Rent prices do remain fairly high.

“There’s still people who can’t support the rents we have,” she said.

Taking lessons from last year, the operators will be looking for sock donations from the community — of course in addition to any time people can spare at the shelter too.

Trying to provide dry socks for people who spend their days outdoors was a nearly impossible task and providing them made a big difference in users of the facility’s comfort.

Warcup says ultimately they still push a ‘Housing First’ initiative, which is a goal that every person should have a place to live. A shelter may be a stop-gap measure but they want all people to be able to find permanent accommodation.

Last year, out of all the nights the shelter was opened, it was accessed for 58.

In total 98 beds were used, by 11 different clients.

Predicting needs is challenging. The group knows there are homeless people in the community but can’t predict how many will use the shelter this year.

All users of the shelter were adults, while any children needing shelter were directed to the Tamitik Status of Women group.

Inquiries on volunteering or donating can be made either to the CDC at 250-632-3144 or the shelter’s cell phone at 250-279-0847.