If you build it, they will come.
Community representatives, church volunteers and homelessness advocates met on June 19 to discuss Delta’s only extreme weather shelter, which has operated the past two winter seasons at Ladner United Church.
“Delta had zero shelters up until three years ago,” Delta corporate social planner Gillian McLeod said at the meeting. “It’s like the line from that famous movie [Field of Dreams]: ‘If you build it, they will come.'”
Open for 69 nights with 64 stays for the 2017/2018 season, the extreme weather shelter was open for 88 nights with 174 stays in 2018/2019. The shelter, which can hold up to 11 adults and offers shower and laundry facilities, was open for a total of 39 consecutive nights both times.
The numbers signify that the need for such a shelter remains strong, especially as word spreads among people in need and the advocates who are constantly working to identify those who may need help, McLeod said.
Shelter clients include the homeless as well as people in precarious or temporary housing situations or in transit through the city.
“It’s not just snow or cold or temperature – it could be several days of rain, which makes the ground saturated, so you can’t stay dry or keep anything dry,” McLeod noted of extreme weather alerts. When activated, the alerts kick-start an action team funded by BC Housing that includes Surrey-based Options Community Services and shelter co-ordinator Shirley Baker.
“It also helps the community and outreach workers connect with those who might need a little extra help. It’s not just a place you stay for one night; it could be a new beginning, the next step or connection for those who might need help finding a job or permanent housing or with getting treatment.”
June’s meeting was held as a review and planning session for the coming winter.
McLeod and Baker both noted how generous the community of Delta has been, with people constantly dropping off donations, especially small-denomination gift cards to places like McDonald’s, Save-On Foods or Subway.
“The shelter is open from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. so when (clients) leave in the morning, we want them to be able to have a hot cup of coffee or something to eat somewhere that’s warm and dry,” Baker said. “When it’s zero [degrees] out there, it can feel a lot colder than zero.”
McLeod is hoping this winter the shelter can open earlier – at 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.
“We really believe the community needs this and will continue to rally around it with their support.”