Up to three people have knocked on the door of Trail’s temporary shelter each night since it opened three weeks ago.
They are welcomed to a warm place to sleep, offered laundry and shower amenities and a light meal – but only for so long.
“This isn’t just a hotel for a month,” says Program Coordinator Sheila Adcock, from Career Development Services (CDS). “If they are not in a crisis and just passing through, individuals utilizing the shelter need to be in a place where they are actively seeking housing and supports.”
There have been instances in the past when a person accessed the facility following a 30-day stint at the year round shelter in Nelson. But the rules are different in Trail, and CDS has developed a policy that states people must connect with housing facilitator through the Getting to Home program within three days, if they wish to stay.
“What we are staying away from and being very clear about, is this is not an ongoing shelter like in Nelson,” Adcock explained.
“That shelter is year round and individuals can stay there for 30 days. Some were spending 30 days there then coming to Trail thinking they could stay here for 30 days, then go back to Nelson,” she added. “That is not our mandate, they need to be actively seeking housing to stay in La Niña shelter – we don’t have consistent funding so this isn’t a place to stay for a month before moving on.”
Finding housing can take anywhere from one day to one month depending upon each person’s needs, she says.
“The individual does not have to take the first thing that comes up,” Adcock said.
“But they don’t get to stay here all winter (with-out deciding on housing), that’s not the purpose.”
Last week alone, workers found three shelter guests, two men and one woman, more permanent lodging.
“They are local and one recently located to Trail because family is here,” she said, mentioning CDS tracks how many people use the shelter each year as well as the number and demographic of people housed through the homeless program.
“We’ve been approached to be part of the homeless count this year so we are on record with how many people have struggled with homelessness this year,” Adcock explained, noting the area includes Castlegar, Rossland, Trail and the Beaver Valley. “But homeless looks different here, it’s not like going to the Lower East side and counting bodies on the street,” she said. “Here it’s people who are couch surfing, sleeping in a back alley, living two-to-three in a small apartment or staying in an unsafe situation. It’s harder for us to get that count.”
Provincial year round funding isn’t a service that’s applied for, as an example, if Trail wanted to facilitate a year round shelter like Nelson.
Rather, the government appoints funding to those communities with the greatest homeless count. That’s the reason Adcock is working on statistics.
The first year (2011) the shelter was volunteer-run in the basement of the Salvation Army Church, with funding only allotted for nights the temperature fell to -10 C, which is considered extreme.
Keith Simmons, former pastor at the Trail United Church, championed the cause the following year and gained funding to compensate shelter workers and keep the service open seven days a week regardless the temperature.
Once CDS stepped in to support the service, the temporary shelter became much more than a warm place to sleep.