Homeless given a helping hand with shelter, bags

3 Selkirk students put together cold weather kits for the Trail emergency shelter to hand out to those in need.

Trail’s homeless are warmed by not only an extended hand at the local shelter but now a bag of personal items to help them get through a rough patch.

Three Selkirk College Social Service Worker students put together cold weather kits for the La Nina Extreme Weather Emergency Shelter and presented their gifts to Career Development Services (CDS), which manages the facility in the United Church.

Students Rodney Noiskey, Catherine Donnelly, and Julie Morrison approached Sheila Adcock, program coordinator of CDS in Trail, to see if they could work on a project that would help the homeless in Trail.

The students canvassed local businesses for gifts to put in 11 bags and collected financial donations to purchase a tablet for the shelter. These items along with two gift cards totalling $75 and $170 in cash were presented to CDS staff and a few individuals who have found themselves homeless at one point or another.

The deed was part of a class assignment that had groups of students giving back to the community by

learning about a need and addressing it.

“I think that these projects are somewhat sobering experiences for students, where they recognize how many unmet needs and how many ‘have-nots’ there are in the West Kootenay, not just on the downtown eastside of Vancouver,” said instructor Kay Armstrong. “It also teaches them about the amazing people that work to support people in need, usually on their own time as volunteers.

“Our social safety net has become badly frayed in the past couple of decades and we see visible signs of that in the human services field with many families and single people living in poverty.”

The group chose to help the homeless when Armstrong suggested that it was a group with a great need that often doesn’t receive a lot of attention, said Morrison. The Oasis resident, who works in community social services at the transition house, was up for the challenge.

“I learned that it’s harder to get things for homeless people than it is for something shall we say a little sexier . . . ,” she said.

The shelter opened last month and has just started to pick up since the cold weather has set in. But numbers remain low since the introduction of the Getting to Home initiative, which helps homeless or soon to be evicted individuals find suitable housing.

Recently there were about two-to-four individuals sleeping in the shelter per night but all but one have since been housed, according to Adcock, who added in some instances the organization is catching the need before it becomes a desperate situation.

“It’s nice to have a warm place to stay and a hot meal but reality is we don’t have a 24-hour shelter here so at 8 o’clock in the morning they’re on the street until 9 o’clock at night,” she said. “We’re still seeing a lot of people in the homeless project that aren’t staying at the shelter that are bringing in eviction notices saying ‘I’ve got nowhere to go and I’ve got to be out’ so we’re helping them problem solve how to get evictions cancelled or get back on track.”

The La Nina Extreme Weather Emergency Shelter is open in the United Church on Pine Avenue until the end of March during the hours of 9 p.m. until 8 a.m.

But now that BC Housing has granted the Trail shelter half its previously ($50,000 last year) secured funding, the two employees that man the warm quarters lock it up if no one shows up by 1 a.m.