UPDATE: Extreme weather shelter sees low usage
* This story has been updated from an earlier version which contained incorrect information.
Burnaby's extreme weather shelter is seeing low usage due to its very nature, says its operator, Lookout Emergency Aid Society.
In the 10 days it has opened between Dec. 8 and Jan. 3, it has been used 13 times, seeing zero to three clients per night, said Lookout spokesman Michael McQuillan.
The Burnaby shelter, at the Westminster Bible Chapel, 7540 Sixth St., can accommodate up to 27 people, McQuillan said.
From late fall to around March 31, the shelter is open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. but only on nights when weather is deemed severe enough that it can create a higher health risk to homeless people.
The extreme weather shelter is a project of the Burnaby Task Force on Homelessness and is operated by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society mainly with volunteers.
Dave Brown, shelter coordinator for Lookout, said in previous weeks the numbers of people using the facility were low which is expected because of its sporadic openings.
Unless the weather warrants an extended opening, potential clients won't want to risk arriving there to find it's closed, Brown said.
People are notified of openings through word of mouth and posters at public libraries, community centres and social service agencies.
"Extreme weather is a tough call," Brown said. "If you don't make the call and people's lives are at risk you lie in bed at night thinking, 'Oh sh**, I should have made that call.' But if you do make the call and the weather turns, it gets really warm then you get somebody calling and saying, 'why did you open, the weather's 3 degrees above zero, why did you do that?'"
The shelter is always looking for volunteers to help out, especially at around 6 a.m. to help pack everything away, Brown said.
Donations of non-perishable food are also needed, although they can't accept pre-prepared food due to health regulations. As always, they can use warm sweaters, coats, blankets and new socks and new underwear to distribute to clients.
Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to call Kevan Oxley, 604-515-2728. To donate food or clothing, call Dave Brown, 778-288-8887.