Nanaimo shelter offers fewer beds this season

NANAIMO – The cold weather shelter at the First Unitarian Fellowship opened Friday to give people refuge from cool temperatures.

A Nanaimo cold weather shelter is offering fewer beds this season as more of the city’s chronic homeless are housed.

The First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo opened its cold weather shelter on Friday to start giving the city’s homeless refuge from the rain and windchill.

There will be 18 beds available, down from 24 the previous year. According to shelter coordinator Kevan Griffith, an aggressive push to house the chronically homeless has led to a drop in people seeking temporary lodging. Between 2011 and 2012 there was a 25-per cent decrease in people looking for shelter, prompting this season’s reduction in beds.

“[I] met with the province and the city and we just realized that we don’t need that many beds and if we don’t need them, why … [pay] for them,” he said.

The city contributes $35,000 annually toward the cold weather shelter, while the province gives per-night funding during extreme temperatures. Those who use the shelter receive a hot meal, bed and breakfast the next morning. Some people are also given housing lists and information on community resources.

Griffith said there seems to be fewer people arriving nightly at the shelter thanks to an effort to house the homeless in places like the 30-unit Wesley Street supportive housing complex. But temporary lodging is still a need in Nanaimo, he said.

There are people passing through town that need a place to stay and “for some, they just don’t want a home,” Griffith said. “[Shelters] are a rallying point for the homeless. A place they can go with no questions [asked],” Griffith said.