A winter shelter for the Tri-Cities’ homeless is at a new church.
Today (March 1), Progressive Housing Society moved the overnight accommodation and services from Coquitlam Alliance Church to Calvary Baptist Church on Regan Avenue — south of Parkland Elementary.
The temporary shelter will be open in the evenings, and for March only.
Maurizio Reyes Gomez, a program manager for Progressive Housing — funded by BC Housing — told the Tri-City News the February program at Coquitlam Alliance Church saw about 325 visitors in total, averaging between 13 and 15 people overnight in the basement.
There, they received a cot and bedding, plus dinner, breakfast and a bagged lunch to go. As well, he said, they got medical attention from a licensed nurse with Fraser Health.
“She came in twice a week and looked at their infections, burns, cuts and stomach complaints,” he said, adding the homeless also received referrals to other programs.
Gomez said Progressive will use the same model at Calvary Baptist, where the homeless are shuttled to and from the facility from specific pick-up and drop-off locations.
Church members will also volunteer their time and services.
“We have a great system in place and we have a lot of support,” Gomez said. “We’re very honoured to be a part of the community.”
BC Housing told the Tri-City News it's pleased Progressive Housing stepped forward after a desperate call for service providers last fall.
City council voiced concern after it allowed four Coquitlam churches to host the winter shelter; however, no provider was immediately available.
In late October, council granted temporary use permits to:
- Eagle Ridge Bible Fellowship (1160 Lansdowne Dr.)
- St. Laurence Anglican Church (825 St. Laurence St.)
- Coquitlam Alliance Church (2601 Spuraway Ave.)
- Calvary Baptist Church (1636 Regan Ave.)
Still, the winter shelter didn’t begin until Feb. 1 when Progressive Housing signed on.
“BC Housing is very thankful that Progressive Housing Society is operating the winter shelter program for the Tri-Cities this season,” a BC Housing spokesperson said of the Burnaby-based organization, on Tuesday.
“They have significant expertise working with people experiencing homelessness in the Tri-Cities and supporting those who are in need.”
They added, “The new shelter at Calvary Baptist Church ensures that people who need a safe, warm place to spend the night will have somewhere to go. Guests at the shelter will have access to support workers who can help them get the services they need and start the transition from homelessness to housed.”
The shelter change-over this week came as Coquitlam city council reviewed its Housing Affordability Strategy on Monday (Feb. 28), as well as a provincially funded and mandated Housing Needs Report — the latter of which council complained is already outdated as it’s based on 2016 census figures (the 2021 census numbers started to roll out last month).
According to the consultant hired to write the $70,000 report, the number of people in Coquitlam who are experiencing “absolute homelessness” is between 80 and 140.
“The needs of those experiencing homeless are varied, and while some need supports to achieve and maintain housing stability, others just require subsidized low-income housing,” the report reads.
It continues, “The number of seniors in shelters has been increasing. Some people experiencing homelessness are showing increasingly complex support needs due to mental health challenges, brain injuries and addiction.”
Coquitlam Coun. Chris Wilson said he suspects the homelessness numbers are higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years.
And he believes the city needs to build more than 9,000 homes over the next decade to accommodate growth and address homelessness.
Meanwhile, the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group is appealing to the public for winter clothing donations.
This includes men’s winter jackets (large or extra large), waterproof footwear (especially work boots, sizes 10 to 13), blankets, toiletries (including small tubes of toothpaste), hand sanitizer and First Aid kits for local shelters.
You can email Polly@PollyK.ca if you have items to donate.