The focus of Trail’s homeless shelter continues to shift ever so slightly each season depending on the need, but one common thread is an ultimate push to find users a permanent home.
The La Nina Extreme Weather Emergency Shelter offered 25 people (17 male and eight female) a warm place to rest their heads this winter from November 1 to March 15, which looked quite similar to the previous year, according to Sheila Adcock of Career Development Services (CDS), the organization that runs the shelter.
“The big change this year was that there were four or five referred from the Nelson shelter and for mental health as they had maxed out their time there,” she explained. “Nelson was their first community of choice but they had to be housed in Trail and we assisted a couple to get transportation out of town to be closer to family.”
These individuals were hooked up with CDS’ outreach worker through the Getting to Home project, an initiative which started in 2012 that now employs one part time support worker to help secure housing by working with landlords to ensure needs are met.
The support worker vouches for these individuals and helps them navigate the system at the same time to look for a housing solution for those who wind up at the shelter for one reason or another. Shelter users include those with mental health challenges, issues around being able to maintain housing in the community due to burning bridges with landlords, court restrictions and drug and alcohol addictions.
The future of the homeless shelter is left up to BC Housing, which funds the facility that is open in the United Church on Pine Avenue during the winter from 9 p.m. until 8 a.m.
This past season saw the facility operating on a tight budget; the Trail shelter was only granted half its previously ($50,000 in 2012) secured funding and as s a result the facility was locked up by 1 a.m. if no one showed up.
“There is always a concern for future funding and BC Housing has had their budget cut back so all their contractors are expected to come up with some savings,” said Adcock. “We had very low numbers as far as shelter numbers go so there is a big concern about next year’s funding.”
Behind closed doors, there are still people like Adcock looking for funding opportunities to expand on these services in Trail. Her hope is that one day the city will have a large facility to house not only the shelter but its support workers, a service centre that would provide all outreach information available in Trail in a community setting year round.
She expects that those who are still without a home will spend the summer couch surfing, sleeping in parks and under bridge or maybe even hitching around the province and camping in the mountains.
La Nina first opened its doors in 2011 with support from the United Church and the Salvation Army and financial backing from BC Housing to house the homeless only when the temperature dropped to -10 C at night.
After ministerial meetings, United Church minister Keith Simmons spoke to other church leaders about a homeless shelter. But it wasn’t until Trail resident Nola Landucci teamed up with Simmons and Salvation Army Major Wilf Harbin that the ad hoc extreme weather shelter committee was formed. The responsibility was later handed off to CDS, a non-profit organization that connects clients and business partners together to provide mutual benefit while enriching lives, /workplaces and communities in the Kootenays.