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Port Moody looking again at establishing warming shelter program for winter months

Port Moody will take a harder look at establishing a warming shelter at Kyle Centre next winter.
0624-PoMoWarmingShelterFile 1w
Port Moody's Kyle Centre could become an emergency warming shelter in a pilot program that would run from January to March of next year.

Port Moody will look into establishing a warming shelter next winter that can be accessed by the homeless during inclement weather.

At its meeting June 15, council passed a motion to limit programming at the Kyle Centre to short-term uses in January, February and March so it can be available as a warming shelter on short notice.

As well, staff will liaise with the co-ordinator of the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Force to help get the word out if there’s no other cold weather program available in the area.

Coun. Amy Lubik, who championed the motion, said while the task force is currently working on establishing a concrete plan to provide a space for the homeless to get out of the cold, rain and snow, what form such a plan might take still isn’t known.

“It is essential that we as a community at least offer to find a way to take care of our most marginalized residents,” she said in a report. “We need to be prepared, as we have been caught leaving people in the cold two years in a row.”

There’s currently nowhere for the homeless in the Tri-Cities to go in the daytime to escape extreme weather.

Last November, Port Moody identified the Kyle Centre as the most suitable location for a daytime warming shelter pilot program that could accommodate up to eight people between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Ron Higo, the city’s acting general manager of community services, said the pilot project would cost $43,941, based upon 60 days of occupancy, including the provision of pre-made sandwiches and non-perishable snacks like granola bars and hot chocolate. More than half the budget —$31,500 — would pay for two shelter works and a part-time administrator.

In his report, Higo said Kyle Centre is ideal for use as a shelter as it’s close to transit routes, has a large interior space and kitchen equipped with tables and chairs, as well as multiple bathrooms. It’s also near to Eagle Ridge Hospital.

But, Lubik said in her report, implementation of the pilot program wasn’t possible last year because of long-term commitments to programming run by the city’s arts centre. An effort to set up an overnight mat program at the recreation complex also didn’t go forward.

Lubik said it’s imperative the city not be caught out again as a cold snap last winter left many homeless scrambling for a place to get out of the weather — a challenge exacerbated by closures and physical distancing requirements because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sadly, the need is likely to be as great next year unless a plan is in place,” she added. “In a changing climate, we are likely to see more extreme weather which will continue to impact the most marginalized community members.”

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