Shelter visits up as weather deteriorates

Unitarian shelter opens early due to extreme weather

The Unitarian Weather Shelter opened its doors early this month due to extreme weather descending on the city.

The 24-bed shelter, operated by the First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo, opened early due to extreme weather from Nov. 4 to 6 and again on Nov. 8, and has stayed open every day since.

The shelter operates as a cold weather shelter from Nov. 15 until March 15. When it operates on extreme weather nights, it receives funding from B.C. Housing, while cold weather nights are funded through a $48,000 grant from Nanaimo’s Working Group on Homelessness.

The shelter was to operate as a cold weather shelter Nov. 15-17, but ran under extreme weather status as well. Extreme weather can include excessive rain or plummeting temperatures, and the working group decides day-to-day whether to open as extreme.

Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz said the number of people visiting the shelter climbed steadily since Nov. 4 – which saw four guests – and Nov. 17, when there were 22. For the past few nights visits have been hovering around the high teens to low 20s.

She said there’s been a good response from people volunteering and donating items, but the shelter can always use more.

The fellowship is currently in the process of hiring a volunteer coordinator.

“We’re so grateful for all the people who have expressed concern on how our guests are doing and want to help,” said Fraser Gitlitz. “It’s wonderful to see the compassion in our city for those who are having a difficult time.”

The shelter is seeking donations of coats, track pants and socks – especially large sizes – for people to change into when they arrive at the shelter.

Donations can be dropped off at the Volunteer Nanaimo office at 3-2350 Labieux Rd.

The Unitarian Weather Shelter is open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and is located at 595 Townsite Rd.

To volunteer, donate or for more information, please call 250-755-1215 or go to