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Funding comes through for La Nina shelter

With its targeted opening date less than two weeks away, the La Nina homeless shelter project finally received word Monday of its funding from the B.C. Housing Organization.

And with evening temperatures dropping and winter creeping in, the funding came just in time for the proposed Nov. 19 opening.

For the 2012 season, the homeless shelter is approved for $50,000, said Keith Simmonds, diaconal minister from the Trail United Church.

“Once again, we need to establish a baseline of what the needs are,” he explained.

The process to receive the funds involves filling out daily reports and submitting them to the government, detailing how many patrons have used the shelter. Based on this information, BC Housing issues a bi-weekly cheque to cover the costs of housing the needy each night.

Now that money is secured, the shelter, located in the basement of the United Church on Pine Ave., can open on its mid-November date and close at the end of March.

The church will open a six-bed shelter, with the expectation that at least four beds will be filled nightly, as in the 2011 season.

“We will be open from 9 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. every day until the end of the season. We are hoping each person will be in the hands of an outreach worker by then, with a plan for the rest of the day.”

This year, Career Development Services (CDS) took the reins and is working in partnership with the United Church.

“The relationship with CDS only makes sense. They have a homelessness outreach worker program, and working knowledge of the community,” added Simmonds.

He stressed that most of the people requiring a bed are host to very complex situations.

“There is usually a medical health diagnosis, which may include mental health issues, or even brain injury. The CDS have workers to help tackle these difficult situations.”

Repeated calls to the CDS were not returned by press time. CDS provides support, assistance and advocacy to persons who face significant barriers to employment.

“Eighty per cent of these people who need long term help are our own folk, and not just sent here for affordable living. In fact, they are all our own folk,” said Simmons.

The La Nina Extreme Weather Emergency Shelter opened for the first time in 2010, from Feb. 1 to March 21, opening 37 times on the nights when the temperature dropped below freezing.

At the start of the program, the shelter was in the basement of the Salvation Army Church in East Trail. The location was an issue as most of the marginally housed individuals spent their time in downtown or in West Trail.

In 2011, the committee, sponsored by the Trail United Church, secured over $55,000 from BC Housing to keep the shelter open from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m., from mid-November to the end of March, regardless of the weather forecast.

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