Cold weather shelter might close

NANAIMO – Early closure of extreme weather shelter possible due to warmer winter.

Despite full beds and subfreezing nights, the First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo Extreme Weather Shelter might be forced to cut its winter season short because of a mild winter that has eaten up cash reserves.

Kevan Griffith, shelter coordinator, said the facility has been at capacity or more throughout the winter season, but he can only bill the province when weather reaches certain conditions.

“Normally in the winter we get about 90-odd nights of extreme weather,” he said. “We didn’t get that this year. We only got about a third of it.”

Overall mild conditions meant the shelter relied more heavily on its funding from the city and Regional District of Nanaimo. The shelter also opened a few days earlier than normal because of the early onset of cold weather in November.

The province pays $726 per night to cover operational costs on nights when it is 2 C outside and windy, or 0 C and clear, or there is extreme rainfall and wind, Griffith said.

The shelter will require about $19,000 to continue operations until March 31, the shelter’s normal winter season closing date, but Griffith also said he could reopen the shelter should extreme weather conditions return. He said he hopes the province will come through with additional cash to keep the shelter open.

“We’ve been so full and turning away people every night,” Griffith said. “It’s sad.”

The shelter is also accepting donations to help maintain operations. To donate, please call 250-755-1215 or visit http://ufon.ca.