Dorm beds to open for up to 10 women at Coquitlam shelter

Now with the additional beds available this winter, women will be able to get meals and other services

A Coquitlam shelter will be able to provide beds for 10 women in its dorm rooms beginning next month as part of a strategy to deal with the region’s growing homeless.

Catharine Hume, co-executive director of RainCity Housing, confirmed that the beds located on the women’s floor at 3030 Gordon will be opened up starting in November to provide more services to women in need.

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In the past, the dorm beds were used as an emergency shelter during extreme weather, but people had to leave during the day, raising concerns in the community about people hanging around outside the shelter, and upsetting people who didn’t understand why the beds were closed when the weather improved.

Now with the additional beds available this winter, women will be able to get meals and other services, such as access to a nurse, mental health and addictions, and their comings and goings aren’t expected to impact the community.

“There are particular vulnerabilities for women and we were able to make the case,” explained Hume, who said the dorm beds will be in addition to those provided for men and women in 30 private shelter rooms for shorter stays and 30 transitional units for longer stays up to two years.

The shelter and transition housing at 3030 Gordon is typically full, Hume said, but there is turnover, if people go into treatment or find housing, sometimes with the aid of a rental subsidy.

But for the most part, there are more people who need supportive housing than units available and Hume supports the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group’s call for modular housing and a drop-in warming shelter to provide a meal and support for people who are homeless.

“I don’t think we need to invest more in shelters, we need to invest more in supportive housing, that makes a tonne of sense,” said Hume, whose society runs a number of supportive housing programs in the province.

Hume said the Tri-Cities homeless people lack “food security” because there isn’t a place they can go to get hot meals every day and there is no safe overdose prevention site, despite the fact that overdoses are a public health emergency.

As the Tri-Cities marks Homelessness Action Week this week, she hopes that people consider these issues and understand that every homeless person has a story and they aren’t just a problem to be dealt with.

“There are times when people want to think that their community doesn’t include people who use drugs, but it’s just not true and by willing it to be so you’re not going to get closer to that truth and at 3030 we have struggled with a whole host of needs — not just people who use drugs but absolutely those people who don’t have options in terms of space.”

Hume welcomes visitors to the Lunch and Connect event tomorrow, Friday, as an opportunity to meet workers, residents, and community members and learn more about 3030 Gordon Ave and ways to change the narrative about homelessness.

The Homelessness Action Week Event takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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