Weather shelter trying to get the word out

Homeless people can get a break from the cold of Old Man Winter this year

With few people using the Oceanside Extreme Weather Response Shelter during recent openings, the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness that oversees it is reaching out and trying to be as accessible as possible.

New this year people can call either of the area’s two taxi companies (Oceanside and Alliance) for a free ride to the shelter when it’s open.

They also have a new a 24-hour phone line (250-954-3082) where people can find out if the shelter is open and if not, get the number of the crisis line.

So far this year the shelter has been open about six nights during colder weather but only had a couple people at most, sometimes nobody.

Under the Assistance to Shelter Act, task force representative Debbie Tardiff has to determine by 10 a.m. whether the shelter will be open that night, based on weather forecasts and cold weather parameters.

On days the shelter is going to open (from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.) the Salvation Army puts out a sign and notices go up at strategic locations like the SOS (Society of Organized Services) and city.

They are using consistent pink paper to be easily recognizable.

The task force recently changed their parameters, allowing Tardiff to activate the shelter later in the day if the weather changes, since, she pointed out, it has been difficult to predict the night’s weather by 10 a.m.

When the shelter is open they notify a list of partner and associated groups from the SOS, RCMP, BC Ambulance, health authority, regional district, Manna Homeless Ministry and locations like the Errington Post Office, Career Centre and St. Stephen’s Church soup kitchen in Qualicum Beach.

When open it provides beds, blankets, a hot evening meal and breakfast. They have an 11 p.m. curfew but will not turn away stragglers. The shelter is in the Salvation Army Church, 187 Alberni Highway in downtown Parksville.