Nanaimo city council voted this week to move forward with a program to offer free shower facilities five days a week to homeless people.
The service will be offered at Caledonia Park on Wall Street and operate from 7-10 a.m. weekdays. The City of Nanaimo has partnered with Nanaimo Unitarian Shelter to staff the showers.
“The city is pleased to be a partner in providing a hot shower for people who without a home of their own,” said Coun. Gord Fuller, in a press release. “This will be of assistance to those going to or coming from work, or seeking employment or housing, or simply going about their day who can now attend to their basic hygiene needs in an appropriate setting.”
The program would cost $40,000 for one year, according to a city staff report, but council voted to use $10,000 in contingency funding to operate the showers for a three-month trial period.
The report indicated that city staff found Caledonia Park to be the preferred location for the service, noting that “the general area is already frequented by some homeless individuals and is relatively isolated from residential areas.”
The program got underway earlier this month as a trial and the showers were used five times over a five-day period.
“This is a great addition in services to our own guests, non-shelter users and anyone else who needs it,” says Kevan Griffiths, Unitarian shelter coordinator, in the press release. “Life on the streets is very hard. We’re pleased to offer meaningful services to meet the health and hygiene needs of the homeless in our community.”
The city already offers discounted user fees at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre to those who wish to use only the shower facilities. Also, the Salvation Army’s New Hope Centre offers free shower facilities for homeless people seven days a week.
“This is a really good example of why we need to wait for staff information and not necessarily make decisions on the fly,” said Coun. Bill Bestwick. “I don’t think anybody at this table, when we first discussed this, knew or understood that there was offerings of shower available at the Salvation Army, and if they did, it wasn’t discussed.”
He was the only member of council who voted against the provision of public shower facilities at Caledonia Park.
During the discussion about showers, a resident raised concern about related safety concerns; read more at this link.