Wednesday, October 13, 2010

homeless shelter

Alex and I went to a volunteer training session for the homeless shelter that our church hosts every November. We're part of a temporary program in which five churches each take one month, from November through March, to house up to 30 guests per night. We serve supper and breakfast and provide a safe, if spartan, place to sleep safely in a warm dry place. Staff from the Hope for Freedom Society supervise overnight, and provide counseling and referrals in an effort to help people get to detox, rehab and supportive housing. This year's program is the final one in a four year cycle. More later about what might happen next.

In the meantime, since even before this temporary church-based program began, people have been working on a permanent shelter. This effort is led by the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Force, and supported in varying degrees by the three cities: Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody. We have a site and a preliminary plan for a permanent shelter in Coquitlam, near the PoCo border, on some former light industrial land now owned by the City of Coquitlam. Here's some info. Public consultations have been taking place, and citizen submissions are now being made to the City of Coquitlam. At the end of November there will be a formal public hearing and Coquitlam City Council be vote to rezone the land to permit the shelter.

If they are successful, which is likely, then they will have to secure actual funding from the provincial government, then they can select an operator to oversee construction and operation of the new centre. This facility is planned to have a 30 bed emergency shelter (occupancy up to 30 days) and 30 units of transitional housing, in which people may live up to 2 years while they receive the support they need to prepare for independent living in the community.

Last March's Homeless Count found 94 people homeless in the Tri-Cities. This is thought to be fewer than actually live in the area, due to the way the count is done. They are men and women, young and old. Some have addiction problems. Many have mental health issues. Every year, Hope for Freedom has met with great success during the shelter program, establishing relationships with the people who come to the shelters and helping get some of them back indoors permanently. The people in my neighbourhood who are preparing the St. Andrew's shelter for November are looking forward to helping with the hospitality part of this effort.

The permanent shelter will be ready in 3 years at the very best. In the meantime, there's a proposal to put up a temporary facility made from converted shipping containers. Watch the news today. The man who is advocating for this solution will have a sample unit at a media event in Coquitlam. Soon we'll know what will happen in both the short term and the long term for our neighbours who don't have a place to call their own.

How to help:
  • read the info about the permanent shelter and watch for updates in the news
  • support the permanent shelter by emailing your support to the City of Coquitlam (contact info is in the linked info flier)
  • attend the public hearing on November 29 (info also in the flier)
  • volunteer at one of the five churches this winter
  • donate food, clothing, toiletries, money to the temporary shelter program
  • be kind to the homeless people in your community - a friendly greeting, shared sandwich, just a smile - these may not solve their problems, but it will help them and you too, in ways you will not expect
question: who lives at large in your neighbourhood?

mompoet - thinking about ways to help

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