Extreme weather shelter seeks donations to keep operating

From left, Coun. Ian Paton, MLA Vicki Huntington, and Major The Reverend Jim Short discuss issues at Delta
From left, Coun. Ian Paton, MLA Vicki Huntington, and Major The Reverend Jim Short discuss issues at Delta's Extreme Weather Shelter in Ladner United Church.
— image credit: Adrian MacNair photo

Delta's only extreme weather shelter (EWS) is looking for community donations to continue providing emergency beds for the homeless following funding cuts by BC Housing after its first two years of operation.

Major The Reverend Jim Short held an informal meeting with South Delta MLA Vicki Huntington and Delta Coun. Ian Paton on Wednesday (Dec. 5) to look at ways the United Church can raise enough money to continue providing the service.

The provincial government eliminated the funding in September because of low occupancy rates the previous year. The shelter was open 62 nights last winter and housed 42 homeless, mostly people from other communities.

"We know we're on the route for transient folks because we're on the way to the ferry," said Short, who added the budget is $340 a night to be in operation.

The shelter needs to be open 50 times this season in order to continue being a member of the EWS network. They've had two people stay in the first five nights this year.

Short said there are businesses in Ladner that have helped provide things like food stamps and cleaning services, which goes a long way to keeping costs down.

"There's a lot of generosity [in the community] and it's not just as Christmas," he said.

Short is also interested in businesses that would be willing to put signs up in their stores when the shelter is open.

Delta's EWS lets police and hospitals know when the shelter is open so they can redirect people there as needed.

Two other locations in the Lower Mainland also lost funding this year because of low occupancy rates.

Short said they're not looking for donations of bedding or clothing at this time, just money to keep the shelter running.

The church intends to continue the operation regardless of the funding cuts as a matter of spiritual principle, and will improve the shelter and add shower facilities when the church is renovated in 2013.

Short said they also need volunteers to come in and manage the shelter overnight. Volunteers generally work four hour shifts between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and are paid a $12 per hour honorarium.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of volunteers some homeless have had to be turned away or sent to other shelters in Surrey. Short said one homeless man refused a cab ride to Surrey.

"It's a little bit like welfare, we tend to think people should just be happy with what they're offered," he said, before adding some people don't like being sent to another community, comparing it to a person showing up at Delta Hospital and being told he has to go to Surrey Memorial.

Huntington says she's come across homeless people who are just ordinary people that have "fallen through the cracks." She cited an elderly woman who came to her for help. Her house in Ladner had burned down and she had been sleeping in her car.

The shelter received $700 per night it was open in funding last year with overall expenditures of $28,000 for 2011.

People who want to donate can drop off their cheques to Ladner United Church at 4960 48 Avenue between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. or call 604-946-6254. Donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be issued.

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