The Oceanside Extreme Weather Response Shelter has been open more than a dozen times already this winter, but they still need to spread the word in the community.
“There’s been someone there all except one night,” said Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness co-chair Renate Sutherland, but there’s often just one person, or sometimes two.
A survey last year found 38 homeless people in District 69, including five children, but people looking for shelter have cited issues like not wanting to leave their regular sleeping spot for an occasional shelter.
The shelter, in the Salvation Army Church across from the Parksville firehall, is only open when extreme weather alerts are issued by the task force — based on provincial guidelines and weather forecasts.
“We come into the office every day, including weekends and try to make the call by 10 a.m.,” she said.
She points out it has been open a number of times this winter due mostly to the wind chill, which they include in their criteria of opening on nights forecast to be colder than -2 C.
When the weather meets the criteria, which includes rain or snow, they issue an alert under the provincial Assistance to Shelter Act.
Bright pink notices go up in strategic locations and the RCMP and other partners and service providers (BC Ambulance, governments, churches etc.) are notified and point people towards the shelter. Police and taxi companies will also give anyone a free ride.