Nanaimo’s cold night homeless shelter. (NEWS BULLETIN file)

Nanaimo shelter keeping people out of the cold

Freezing weather hasn't resulted in major increase in visitors this winter

Despite plenty of snow and chilly weather Nanaimo’s cold weather shelter hasn’t seen a major spike in visitors.

Located in the basement of the First Unitarian Fellowship on Townsite Road, the shelter provides the homeless with a warm place to sleep and food for free.

Kevan Griffith, shelter coordinator, said there have been 72 unique visitors since opening last year. He said the shelter is running at about 86 per cent capacity and that there was a slight dip in visitors during the holiday season.

“We saw a little bit of a decline during the Christmas holidays, people are a little more giving then, but the numbers are back up now,” he said.

The shelter, which can accommodate as many as 30 individuals, had more than 130 unique visitors last season and similar numbers are expected for this season.

“We’re on pace,” Griffith said.

While the shelter in Nanaimo has been running at 86 per cent capacity, a cold-weather shelter in Parksville, which provides beds for eight people, has been at capacity for days and there have been nights when its operators have had to turn people away. Griffith has no idea how many people are coming from Parksville or anywhere else on the Island to his shelter because they don’t track where people come from. He said the shelter only tracks number of visitors and unique visitors, adding that it is a lot harder to say where you’re from when you don’t have a permanent home.

According to Griffith, the Nanaimo shelter receives funding from city and B.C. Housing as well as private donations. He said fundraising is done as well and there have been plenty of food and clothing donations, but cash donations are always useful.

“We can go out and purchase things we need, like if we get someone to the shelter and we don’t have a proper size pair of boots for them, we can go and buy that for them with cash. It’s a lot easier and [the money] stays in the community,” he said. “I buy local.”

-files from Michael Briones/Parksville-Qualicum Beach News


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