When the temperature dips below freezing in Chilliwack, it’s tough to be out on the streets.
That’s the motivation behind an effort to get help from the province from reps at Salvation Army, Ruth and Naomi’s Mission and Cyrus Centre Chilliwack.
It’s the first time they have joined forces to put in a BC Housing funding bid for what’s known as “extreme weather” shelter beds, so they can bring street people in from the cold.
“The application is going in soon as possible,” said Tim Bohr, director of community ministries for Chilliwack Salvation Army.
It’s been years since Chilliwack has received funding specifically for extreme weather beds.
“We’ll be petitioning for an exception to be made because of the demonstrated need for this,” Bohr noted.
The trio of local groups serve a similar client demographic, those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, so it made sense to join forces.
“We’re blessed to have multiple agencies working in concert on this,” said Bohr, which included City of Chilliwack reps.
The last Homeless Count in Chilliwack showed there were 77 people on the streets, which did not include the people who were staying in emergency shelters.
There are emergency shelter beds available, but they fill up quickly when the weather turns. There are up to 16 beds at the Salvation Army’s Care and Share Centre, and another 18 beds at Ruth and Naomi’s Mission, and four at Cyrus Centre.
But winter weather is another thing.
“All of this is to make sure no one is force to sleep in sub-zero temperatures. It’s because we genuinely care,” said Bohr.
“The need is growing,” said Bill Raddatz, executive director at Ruth and Naomi’s. “And the need for extreme weather beds funding is also clear.”
A year ago they’d have seven or eight taking shelter for the night at the downtown mission on Margaret. This year it has been more like 14 people per night, said Raddatz, which doesn’t include the extra beds needed when the weather gets nasty.
So this week they squeezed in 21 people on cots. They all just needed a bed when winter showed up a little early in November.
“It’s happening earlier than usual this year,” said Raddatz. “I think this cold caught us all off guard since we just got the application together last week.”
Everyone is hoping the extreme weather funding is approved quickly.
“It’s cold out,” said Bohr. “We are remaining hopeful it doesn’t get to the point where we have to turn people away.”