Homeless people seek comfort from the elements regardless of how low the mercury dips.
That was the case during Trail’s mild winter, because no matter the temperature, an average of two people sought beds at the city’s temporary shelter each night.
The La Nina Extreme Weather Emergency Shelter offered services to mostly middle aged males who were homeless and needed a warm place to rest their heads from November 1 to February 28.
The demographic evolves from those who are homeless to women seeking shelter from domestic situations, and those travelling through the area for medical appointments with no transportation back home.One constant element since the shelter opened in the Trail United Church, is that over the past three years, people use the six-bed service snow, rain or shine.
“The usage for the shelter this year was steady in November and December due to a few individuals waiting for available housing,” said Teresa Crockett of Career Development Services (CDS), the organization that runs the shelter.
January slowed down, however the shelter was utilized for some crisis situations, she explained. “And individuals stranded and travelling through town.”
She said one to two people accessed the shelter nightly, with the most being four in one shift.
“But we never had to turn anyone away,” Crockett added.
Extreme weather response shelter programs are funded through BC Housing with a temporary purpose to provide spaces to individuals and families who are homeless during winter months when sleeping outside could threaten their health and safety.
Each year, CDS is required to apply for funding with a rationale as to why the service is needed, said Crockett, adding that the shelter staffs 14 individuals during the season.
As a key element in the strategy to break the cycle of homelessness, temporary shelters like La Nina and BETHS (Boundary Emergency and Transitional Housing Society) in Grand Forks or drop-in centres such as Nelson’s Stepping Stones for Success, are disbursed funding to help connect the homeless to support and housing services within their respective communities.
In Greater Trail, a joint venture between the Greater Trail Skills Centre and CDS called Getting to Home, was launched two years ago with a goal to end homelessness in region.
“The project well surpassed our ideas and what we had set forth to do,” said CDS spokesperson Gail Pighin. “We hope to raise funds as well as awareness that homelessness isn’t a problem that occurs in larger cities,” she continued. “It is alive and happening right here in Trail and the surrounding areas.”
The homelessness initiative began with 28 people on the roster in need of assistance, but by the end of June, the program helped 163 individuals from Rossland through to Fruitvale find a place to call home.
“This isn’t just about picking the person up and saying ‘Here is a house for you,'” said Pighin.
“It’s about looking at the dynamics and what has created this situation and how we can help them be in a better place and get the support they need.”
Single mothers, seniors on the verge of losing housing, youth transitioning out of foster care, brain injury clients and people struggling with mental health or drug and alcohol issues have all found housing through “the homeless are here if you choose to look” project.
“It’s not the guy you see walking around or sleeping under the bridge and other nooks and crannies in Trail,” said Pighin.
“We thought we would just get those guys and get them off the street. But it has turned out to me so much more.”
For information, contact CDS at 364.1104, BETHS at 250.442.2006.