Downtown Chilliwack shelter expansion moves forward

Donation from Rotary club allows Ruth and Naomi's to build secure rooms for men and women

Crews shovel concrete into forms to build walls around a section of Ruth and Naomi's Mission on Wednesday. Members from the Rotary Club of Chilliwack Fraser presented Bill Raddatz

Crews shovel concrete into forms to build walls around a section of Ruth and Naomi's Mission on Wednesday. Members from the Rotary Club of Chilliwack Fraser presented Bill Raddatz

There will be more beds available for Chilliwack’s homeless soon, thanks to a hefty donation by a local organization.

This week, the Chilliwack Fraser Rotary Club passed over a cheque for $73,000 to help Ruth and Naomi’s expand their shelter. The covered vestibule at the entrance to the building was only being used as a smoking area. With a little planning, and the donation from the Rotary, that area is now being closed in to become new sleeping quarters for the homeless.

One room will house beds for 12 men, another will hold four beds for women, and there will be two more office areas and a lounge incorporated into the plan.

Currently, there is room for about 14 people in the shelter overnight. However, the beds are stored away in a bathroom during the day and rolled out in the evening.

Those using the shelter arrive at 9 p.m., get something to eat and hit the showers. They’re clothes are washed for them, and they get a warm sleep with a breakfast in the morning.

The new area being built will mean they can house more people, and can do so without needing to rearrange furniture every night and morning to accommodate them.

“This will be a very efficient use of space,” said Bill Raddatz, executive director of Ruth and Naomi’s. As Raddatz met with the Rotary directors on Tuesday afternoon, a concrete truck whirred away and workers built the forms for the new walls.

It’s just another step toward building a better shelter, Raddatz said. Later this year, they hope to make renovations inside the building to allow for more offices. Eventually, they would be spaces for counseling and medical services.

Gary Armstrong, president of the Chilliwack Fraser Rotary, said the club saw a great need in the community for more shelter space.

“There’s a real need here,” he said, with many people “getting lost through the cracks of the system.

“There has been a lot of cooperation between agencies and this is just another way of helping out.”

The project will cost Ruth and Naomi’s about $120,000.

jpeters@theprogress.com