A few of the tents outside city hall came down shortly after beds arrived for the new emergency winter shelter in Prince Rupert.
Twenty-five beds were donated from a correctional institute in Manitoba and they arrived on Thursday, Nov. 23. Executive director of the North Coast Transition Society, Christine White, said the beds are completely bed bug proof, easy to wipe down and comfortable with a built in pillow.
“We’re offering hot soup and hot chili every night,” White said in the announcement to media that included Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain as well as Clyde and Julia Smith, who will be taking on 12-hour shifts to run the shelter.
Since the the space at 328 3rd Ave. West opened its doors over the weekend, Clyde said they have averaged eight to nine people a night, which was evident from the few beds laid out on the floor on Thursday. Now, with more beds to unpack, they anticipate the numbers to rise.
“That’s just in the transition stage. With the tents that are up there right now they’re starting to take them down so we’ll have everybody coming down here at that time,” Clyde said.
He expects approximately 15 people this week.
“There are a number of people who don’t want to come into a shelter right now. Throughout the years they’re used to having their private spot. I expect it to go up to full capacity with 25 beds,” he said.
The emergency shelter is currently open 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. due to the funding arrangement with BC Housing. The city and the transition society are going to continue fundraising to be able to open earlier in the day.
“We will keep working to get additional funding to see if we can fill in that gap,” White said.
Due to donations from the public and businesses, the shelter has a new fridge, food and beverages, a TV and DVD player, couches, blankets and dry clothes and shoes. There is a bathroom, but no shower.
Over the weekend, many volunteers, including the mayor and MLA Jennifer Rice, scrubbed floors to prepped the space for the people who need it.
“This is one of those times where the community just comes together in a very quick order. It was 30 hours of work this weekend to get this place cleared out, scrubbing the floors to get the beds in here to get this place set up the way it is,” Brain said. “I’ve never experienced anything personally like this in my life before.”
The mayor said he will reach out for extra funds to try to open the space a little earlier than 8 p.m.
One of the occupants of tent city, Glendon Gurney, said he plans to sleep at the new shelter this week.
“I think we made our point,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends they’ve got to sleep outside and they don’t have to do that. It shouldn’t be like that.”
The shelter at Raffles Inn will continue
Although the new emergency shelter is opening at 328 3rd Ave. West the Prince Rupert Salvation Army said it will continue to run the 12 beds at Raffles Inn.
“We are still getting funds from BC Housing, Raffles is still active and we have 12 beds available to whoever needs them. Our rooms are kept up, they are clean, they are up to code,” Lieutenant Sabrina Silvey said.
BC Housing statistics showed that in October, one of the rainiest months of the year in Prince Rupert, Raffles Inn only had 20 per cent occupancy rate. MLA Jennifer Rice pointed out these statistics at the Nov. 14 city council meeting to explain why Prince Rupert didn’t qualify for emergency winter shelter funding from BC Housing.
Today, White thanked BC Housing for cutting through all the red tape and rushing the funding for an emergency winter shelter for a maximum of 25 people a night.
Meanwhile, the beds at Raffles, Silvey said, will continue to operate to make sure people have access. The Salvation Army has a full-time shelter manager who does intake Monday through Friday. When the manager has a day off, people in need can register themselves at Raffles’ front desk.
The funding from BC Housing isn’t just for the 12-beds.
“When we aren’t open at our soup kitchen — because they are eligible to come for breakfast and lunch at our soup kitchen — their dinners are provided through Raffles Inn as part of our agreement. When we are closed, if it’s a holiday or a weekend, breakfast lunch and dinner are provided through Raffles. Food is accessible seven days a week, as well as beds seven days a week. And clothing from our thrift store if need be,” Greg Silvey said.
With files from Keili Bartlett