Nanaimo’s extreme weather shelter opens for season

NANAIMO – Twenty-four-bed shelter offers chronically homeless a warm, dry sleep and meals.

The Extreme Weather Shelter is open for the winter season, offering the homeless a warm bed and hot meals on the coldest winter nights.

The shelter, which has operated since 2008 at the First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo on the corner of Millstone Avenue and Townsite Road, has beds for up to 24 people a night and is open 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week until March 31.

Kevan Griffith, shelter coordinator, said the shelter opened Saturday this year, a little earlier than usual due to higher numbers of people being turned away from other shelter facilities around town.

There is no cost for a stay at the shelter.

“There’s dinner served and then there’s breakfast in the morning,” Griffith said. “They a get a couple of meals, the night meal and the morning meal, and then they’re on their merry way.”

Griffith said he sees about 10 people who are chronically homeless and come into the shelter only when the coldest winter weather finally drives them indoors. On average, the shelter takes in about 19 people per night, but on the coldest days there can be more people coming through the door than there are beds available, but staff make room for them anyway. The shelter will take in people other shelters won’t.

“Some nights we’ve had 25, 26,” Griffith said. “If they can make it through the door, we take them. It was nice last year, the RCMP brought in a lot of people rather than take them to the drunk tank because we’ll take them as long as they’re not a problem. If they’re bad [RCMP] won’t even bring them … and they’re so appreciative that they’re not going to the drunk tank that they’re on their best best behaviour.”

John Horn, city social planner, said the city contributed $20,000 this year to help cover operational costs.

Other funding sources include private cash donations, which the shelter always welcomes, but it also needs donations of socks, long johns, sweat pants and pyjamas. The shelter also welcomes volunteers.

For more information or to make a donation, please visit the shelter webpage at http://ufon.ca/weather-shelter/ or call 250-754-3720.