Arbutus Grove Church in downtown Parksville is hosting the community’s cold-weather shelter, which will operate through March of 2018. — NEWS file photo

Winter weather shelter operates at capacity

Society’s executive director says there were occasions people were turned away

With the recent deluge of snow and the dipping temperature in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area, the region’s winter weather shelter has been operating nearly at full capacity.

The 8-bed shelter in Arbutus Grove Church, located at 170 W. Hirst Ave. in Parksville, has been able to provide warm beds to sleep in and hot meals to those who do not have a home to stay in.

“Some nights it’s six to eight (people),” said Violet Hayes, executive director of Island Crisis Care Society and co-chair of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness. “For the most part we’re right around capacity.”

However, Hayes indicated there were some nights when the shelter was so full that it was forced to shut its doors to some people, which she says was “heartbreaking.”

“There have been a few, but not too many,” said Hayes. “Last week, there was one time and the week before we had one as well. And before that there were three (nights). There are no alternatives when it’s full other than coming to Nanaimo. We only have eight beds.”

Some people have turned to the Salvation Army for help. Major Norm Hamelin said whenever people approach Sally Ann for assistance, it directs them to the winter weather shelter first. When it’s full and they have no other recourse, he said, “we can look at each individual’s situation.”

Hayes does not have figures for the total number of people who have used the shelter yet, but she feels it’s still less than last year’s figures.

“From my experience, around Christmas time you see lighter numbers because that’s when family members are often able to take people in,” said Hayes. “But after the Christmas season is over, they’re not so willing, sometimes.”

The emergency shelter was opened on November 1 and received funding of $143,000 from BC Housing, through a partnership with the City of Parksville and Island Crisis Care Society.

The shelter will be open from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. until March 31.

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