The Portal, the temporary winter shelter, at Yale and Williams has been operated by RAN with BC Housing funding. It opened in early December and has been full most nights. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

Rough winter for those trying to survive on Chilliwack streets

Mayor Popove says everything Chilliwack has done is ‘a work in progress’ with more on the way

It’s been rough for those sleeping on the streets of Chilliwack — even during a mild winter.

Many of the 30 to 35 guests bedding down nightly at The Portal shelter are patiently waiting for the modular supportive housing to open in April, while others refuse to stay in emergency shelters.

“It’s a tough situation,” said Mayor Ken Popove. “We’re doing what we can, and there are more positive things coming.”

READ MORE: Portal opened in early December

Chilliwack has a total of about 139 adult shelter spaces available at this point for anyone seeking a bed for the night, and they are not full every night.

For example, The Portal, the 24/7 winter shelter, at Yale and Williams, opened with 45 spaces, with temporary BC Housing funding in early December.

It has been full most nights since it opened on Dec. 3.

“So far we’re calling it a success,” reported Bill Raddatz, executive director of Ruth & Naomi’s Mission, which operates the Portal.

They view the shelter as a “navigational pivot point” to help people permanently leave the life on the streets.

READ MORE: Many projects on the way

Some are starting to “take pride in their surroundings,” Raddatz said, and guests have been helping with street cleanups.

“It’s been running smoother than anticipated as some guests have realized they could stay for the full four months while waiting to transition to other housing alternatives,” he said.

But the existing shelter at RAN, which had been averaging 30 to 35 guests per night, is now only seeing about 15 to 20 people per night.

City crews clean up garbage most weekday mornings, while Fraser Health outreach workers and ICM team members engage regularly with shelter guests.

The RAN Family Centre as well as the Yale Road modular supportive housing project should be open and ready to intake residential tenants by April.

The area around the post office downtown has remained occupied by about 20 people. Most have complex, multi-barrier situations that have brought them to homelessless and substance use.

“Unfortunately that is their choice,” Raddatz said about those for whom the shelter rules or other restrictions are unacceptable. “It’s a hard life.”

Chilliwack officials have been working closely with various organizations and provincial agencies to address the desperate situation of those with addiction and mental health issues living rough. They have also been applying for funding and partnerships from senior levels of government to increase housing and shelter beds, and more is on the way in the next six months.

“The biggest thing we are looking to in 2019 is for the modular supportive housing to open. We expect that to be a big help,” Popove said. There are already 30 names on the intake list for the 45 units.

Gaining the infrastructure capacity to be able to help everyone who needs it “does not happen overnight,” the mayor underlined.

The homeless population exploded in the last few years, faster than all levels of government could address it, but they have been taking on the challenge — head on.

“It’s all been a work in progress,” Popove said.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Big Bar Landslide saw long awaited blasting this week

Pressure has been on senior governments working with First Nations to remove blockage for months

COLUMN: Trying to look forward while looking back

Reader suggests re-running a 2015 Times column after recent racism towards Indigenous people

Two prolific offenders from Alberta lead RCMP on chase across Fraser Valley

Men first reported in Chilliwack ending with allegedly stolen vehicle in an Abbotsford pond

Chilliwack physiotherapist charged with sexual assault

Mounties urging other potential victims to make contact

Former employee of Chilliwack senior care home calls working there ‘a horror show’

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

‘A bag full of garbage every 15 metres’: Surrey industrial area filled with trash

Local workers looking to recruit business, raise funds to help dispose of litter

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Brand new Tesla crashes into Surrey store front, mounts gas line

Driver was heading to the Autoplan store, straight off the lot

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

Mugging with airsoft gun results in Langley school lockdown

Police found the weapon and a stolen phone later

Forest industry protests northern B.C. caribou protection deal

B.C. Mining Association supports federal-Indigenous plan

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Most Read