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Winter shelter program launches in the Tri-Cities
Homeless people looking for a warm place to sleep during the winter months will be able to turn to a handful of churches for a bed as the bridge shelter program launches this weekend.
Starting today (Nov. 1), Coquitlam's Cavalry Baptist church will open its doors to those in need, providing them with a mat to sleep on and a meal to eat. The Regan Avenue facility will operate the shelter until Nov. 30, after which Coquitlam Alliance church will take over for a month.
"Everyone has really come together to make this happen," said Andrea Coorigan, a volunteer coordinator with Hope for Freedom Society, which runs the shelter program. "The churches usually get about 150 volunteers a month. That doesn't include the number of people who are helping with coordinating meals and lunches and clothing."
Getting a shelter program together for fall/winter 2013/’14 was not guaranteed. Port Coquitlam's Grace Church hosted a semi-permanent shelter last year but council voted to turn down a temporary use permit in the summer after complaints from area residents.
Some people in the neighbourhood told a public hearing that the shelter attracted loitering and drug use in the area, claims disputed by Hope for Freedom director Rob Thiessen.
Council's decision left the society scrambling to organize a shelter program that would rotate between a handful of churches, similar to the old cold/wet weather mat program. Under the current arrangement, shelter users will be bussed in and out of the various locations, which is meant to eliminate loitering issues.
Despite the last-minute efforts, Corrigan told The Tri-City News that organizing this year's shelter program has gone relatively smoothly. Some of the churches that will be used in the early months of the program already have temporary use permits in place and she said she is confident that other churches will get organized as the months go by.
"While we haven't necessarily worked out all the details, we are confident that a solution will evolve over the course of the program," she said.
Each shelter has a capacity of 30 beds and only men and women 19 years of age or older are eligible. There is no provision for pets, although storage for personal possessions is available. Shelter users will be picked up at various locations by calling 604-830-1528. The shelter operates between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. between Nov. 1 and March 31.