A Port Coquitlam woman is sharing her concerns about people being homeless during extreme weather after meeting up with two men shivering in the cold.
Her comments were directed to the city's mayor and the Tri-City News, with Suzanne L'Hereux asking: "I am hoping there is a reasonable explanation as to why PoCo does not have shelters to help homeless people."
She's not alone, as dozens of people have directed comments and concerns to the Tri-City News over the years asking why more isn't being done for local homeless people.
L'Heureux said in her letter that she met two men who told her there was nowhere for them to go.
"I bought warm food and drinks for two decent homeless men. I spent some time chatting with them, asking about their situation, where they slept the night before. One slept by the entrance of the Fresh Mart, the other in the bushes near the Coquitlam River. The latter is 65 years old and has been homeless for 10 years," she wrote.
However, according to the city, efforts have been made to provide people with shelter and a warm space over this recent winter period, including over the Christmas break and this week.
Dominic Long the, director of corporate support and community safety, said the city has offered up space at The Outlet and has prepared beds.
It's working with senior levels of government on making the space available.
In the meantime, people needing shelter are being driven to the extreme weather response shelter at Kyle Centre in Port Moody, where mats for 20 people and hot food are provided.
"Our city staff performed outreach to homeless individuals (most who they know by name) and offered them direct transportation to the overnight shelter and then back to Port Coquitlam during the day, along with storage of belongings," stated Long in an email.
"Some individuals took us up on the offer, while others didn’t. For those that didn’t, we provide blankets and items to stay warm. We also advised that the Port Coquitlam Community Centre was open during the day for people to stay warm."
Meanwhile, the only permanent shelter available in the Tri-Cities is the one at 3030 Gordon Ave. in Coquitlam, on the border with Port Coquitlam. However, that facility, which offers 30 transition housing units, 30 individual rooms and 15 dorm beds has been at capacity for some time.
(The dorm beds typically hold 30 people, but occupancy has been reduced due to COVID-19).
As well, there is an additional shelter for vulnerable people at the Sure Stay Hotel in Coquitlam. But it's only available by referral.
Several churches have offered space for a shelter, but as yet there is no provider.
Still, Port Coquitlam maintains it's taking a "compassionate approach" to those without shelter at this time.
"As I mentioned, our bylaw staff know most of them by name, know their history and other challenges they may be dealing with, including mental health and addictions issues. In addition to the above, our city has been advocating strongly to our MLA the need for a wide spectrum of services, including housing."
The city's mayor, Brad West, also said he plans to reach out to L'Heureux about her concerns.
Meanwhile, L'Heureux's comments in her query to the Tri-City News resonate with many concerned about those without a home at this time.
"They are human beings who deserve respect and kindness, and should be considered as citizens of PoCo," she wrote.