Cold weather homeless shelter ready to re-open this month

Trail’s cold weather homeless shelter will re-open on Nov. 16.

Trail’s cold weather homeless shelter will re-open on Nov. 16, and this winter plans call for it to be open every night regardless of weather.

The East Trail shelter operated for the first time last winter from Feb. 1 to March 21, but only on nights when the temperature was expected to drop below freezing. Based on that criteria, the shelter was open for 37 days during its first season.

Details of provincial funding are still being confirmed, but the organizers believe the shelter must be open daily to be really useful.

“To have a cold weather shelter that is going to close if the next night the temperature goes above zero is a bit ridiculous because people who are sleeping rough aren’t going to want to give up whatever sleeping space they have managed to make for themselves if they don’t know if the shelter is going to be there tomorrow,” said organizing committee member Nola Landucci. “So, it is kind of a Catch 22 and we decided we are going to try and establish whether there is really a market here in town by making it at least viable (for the users).”

The shelter is located in the Salvation Army’s church hall on Second Avenue and has space for six people. Beds are available for four of those six spaces, with the mats used last year being pressed into service again for the other two.

Last winter the shelter was used by an average of one person on the nights it was open.

The organizers, which includes the United Church as the recipient organization for grants, are also working with the Family And Individual Resource centre (FAIR) to see if additional services can be provided at the shelter, such as counseling on housing, employment and social assistance applications.

“It is very difficult for the homeless to access some of these services so you really do need some help with advocacy. . . There are services in Trail, but it is not always apparent where they are if you don’t know your way around.”

Part of the difficulties of running a shelter in a small community is the lack of economies of scale, Landucci indicated.

Regulations call for at least two staff to be on duty overnight, which makes for a high average operating cost per bed in a small shelter.