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Homelesss shelter in Parksville has been operating near capacity

The shelter is only open during nights of extreme weather, but that meant 20 nights in December

It's been a record year for Parksville's extreme weather shelter.

The facility providing solace for those less fortunate was open 25 nights in December alone operating at close to full capacity, according to Salvation Army manager Lisa Clason.

She said the shelter was also open 14 nights in November and seven nights in January so far.

"The weather has been wet, windy and stormy," said Clason. "It's been storm after storm. Even though it was mild and raining there was no way someone could stay dry."

The shelter, which now operates out of the old B.C. Ambulance Station in Parksville, is open from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. providing clients with two hot meals (dinner and breakfast), a bed with blankets and pillows, showers, dry clothes and most importantly — a safe place to sleep.

The protocol for Parksville's extreme weather shelter is standard for extreme weather shelters on Vancouver Island, according to the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness. Implementation of the extreme weather response plan is called when weather conditions are deemed severe enough to present a substantial threat to the life or health of homeless people.

Extreme weather conditions are defined as: temperatures near zero with rainfall that makes it difficult or impossible for homeless people to remain dry; sleet/freezing rain; snow accumulation; sustained high winds; and temperatures at or below -2 Celsius, taking into account wind chill. Clason said it's been "very difficult" to find and retain volunteers for the extreme weather shelter given the late night hours and sometimes "unpleasant" circumstances.

“Volunteers are welcome even if they just want to come and play games with people for a few hours,” she said. “I’m very flexible.”

Clason also noted donations for the extreme weather shelter should be brought to the Salvation Army, not the shelter.

To volunteer or for more information please contact the Salvation Army at 250-248-8794.

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