Emergency shelter already seeing use as third year starts
It’s been 16 days since the Boundary Extreme Weather Shelter opened for the season and there’s already a regular clientele coming in.
The shelter, which is located in the Grand Forks Christian Centre and is operated by the Boundary Emergency and Transition Housing Society (BETHS), opened the doors for the third year on Thursday, November 1. Since then there has been a fairly steady group of between one and three clients a night, said new center coordinator Christopher Stevenson.
Stevenson’s goal this season is to raise awareness about the center as a shelter for anyone in need who lives throughout the Boundary.
“We serve the whole Boundary and not just Grand Forks,” said Stevenson. “And we’re not just a homeless shelter – we’re mandated to be available for anyone who is in need of shelter. It could be someone without a home or in crisis like during the Grand Forks Hotel catastrophe. We were there to take care of that need.”
People sleeping in the cold constitutes a crisis and people can die. It’s not always about sleeping in a box or crouching in a lobby. (The shelter) could be for someone whose power went out.
In March the shelter served the community well when 20 people were displaced because of the fires at the Grand Forks Hotel and Winnipeg Hotel. Stevenson doesn’t anticipate he will see any of those clients again this year.
“I would hope those people have found accommodations,” he said.
Stevenson said it is hard to know how many people are defined as homeless in the Boundary, although the shelter’s original funding was based on 40 surveys by homeless people in our region.
Those who are “couch-surfing” are not deemed homeless by the government, but they don’t have a permanent residence and could in need of an emergency shelter, said Stevenson.
While the shelter now has five staff to help keep the hours regular, volunteers are always welcome to help, he said.
“We need to make (the shelter) a living place,” said Stevenson.
By helping the homeless connect with and integrate into the community. They are people just like you and I but they are hung with this stigma. We need volunteers to make it a welcoming place and to socialize with people… Some people out there don’t connect with society very often so we take this opportunity to connect with them.
The shelter can take up to 20 people and they have a more private room available for families in need. But, should they exceed 20 people, they won’t turn anyone away, said Stevenson.
The shelter is now staffed with five people, including Stevenson, which means it is guaranteed to be opened from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. seven days a week until March 31, 2013. A snack and a breakfast are available, although the facility is not a soup kitchen. The food is very basic, said Stevenson.
Donations are always welcome. There is also a need for the donation of non-perishable food items, blankets and sheets in good condition.
The Grand Forks RCMP is always willing to pick up anyone who needs a ride from a neighboring community too.
The emergency shelter can now be followed online on Facebook at Boundary Emergency and Transition Housing Society or by emailing Christopher Stevenson at firstname.lastname@example.org.