A warm, dry bed and couple of hot meals.
To some in Oceanside, the things many of us take for granted can be elusive. Effective immediately, when the weather gets bad enough, the cold weather shelter will be open for the homeless who need refuge.
Operated by the Salvation Army and located at its church on the corner of Jensen Avenue and Alberni Highway in Parksville, the cold weather shelter will be open until March 31 on nights when the temperature dips to minus-2 C or “any kind of weather that proves a danger to someone’s safety if they were sleeping outdoors,” says Renate Sutherland, the executive director of SOS, who also is the regional co-ordinator for the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness.
An official count last winter determined there were 68 people who could be deemed absolutely homeless or at imminent risk to homelessness, said Sutherland, adding that 38 of those people fell into the absolutely homeless category.
This is the third winter for the shelter, which is funded jointly by B.C. Housing, the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness. Last winter, Sutherland made the decision — according to the weather — to open the shelter 49 nights between Nov. 1, 2011 and March 31 of this year. She alerts the media, government officials and the RCMP before noon and the shelter opens at 6 p.m.
The facility has eight beds available and those who access the shelter also get a hot meal before bed and a hot breakfast in the morning before the shelter closes at 8 a.m. Last winter, people accessed the shelter on 28 separate nights and 10 different people accessed.
Those living in outlying areas of Oceanside who wish to access the shelter on nights it is open can call one of the district’s taxi company’s for a free ride directly to the shelter.