The recent icy, cold weather has increased the need for extreme-weather beds in Mission.
Council has agreed to provide an additional $5,000 – to be reallocated from the Gaming Reserve Fund – to fund additional beds from January to March of this year.
The budget will assist in the opening of additional extreme-weather shelter bed spaces for youth and women at the Elks Hall.
The decision for more funding was made last week after a staff report was presented to council. In the report, staff explained that the Elks Hall contacted Mission Community Services in the fall of 2017 to offer the hall for overflow extreme-weather beds.
Mission Community Services currently operates Haven in the Hollow, which offers 15 beds for men and five beds for women. In addition to these year-round beds, BC Housing funds 20 additional extreme-weather beds when the temperature drops below zero degrees.
While council approved the $5,000 expenditure, Coun. Danny Plecas asked that a letter be sent to both local MLAs asking for more financial support from the province. Plecas felt the government should at least match the funding provided by the district.
The $5,000 will be enough to open extra beds for an estimated eight or nine days. The average cost to open extra bed spaces and pay staff is about $600 a day.
Kristen Hargreaves, the district’s manager of social development, told council that in the past 10 days there has been an estimated average of four to six turn-aways of men and one or two women from Haven in the Hollow per night.
“It’s partially due to capacity but more often than not it’s also due to the behaviour people are demonstrating. We do have options that we try to put together for people when that happens,” Hargreaves said.
Those options include transporting people to Abbotsford if there is space. However, Hargreaves said people often refuse to go and some end up spending the night in police cells.
“That’s not great, but it’s better than nothing.”