The Mission Leisure Centre opened its doors to people fighting the biting cold and snowfall last week, with six people staying in the gymnasium between Wednesday, Dec. 14 and Sunday, Dec. 18.
Kirsten Hargreaves, the district’s manager of social development, said they had heard of a need for more beds and a warming centre for homeless residents who couldn’t get into the Haven in the Hollow Shelter on Logan Avenue, which was at capacity.
With no churches in Mission opening up as emergency extreme cold-weather shelters, she said the Leisure Centre opened its doors, despite knowing they might not get a huge number of people coming through.
“It’s tough because we knew we wouldn’t get large numbers and our facility is not ideal for that just because we’re so far from town,” Hargreaves said. “Lots of people donated food and we borrowed blankets from the second-stage shelter.”
She explained the province initiates extreme-weather bed contracts in every community, with the government kicking in additional funding to have 40 beds available at Haven in the Hollow. But she said that shelter is only open for adults and some people are apprehensive at first, especially if they are women or youth.
“What we were hearing in the community was an additional need for some families and youth, and sometimes women, to access an alternative,” she said.
It was the first time the Leisure Centre opened its doors, and they have now agreed to a deal with All Saints Anglican Church on 2nd Avenue to open up more beds if needed in the future.
Hargreaves says another cold snap, expected to arrive in January, may necessitate the church opening its doors.
Bethel Pentecostal Assembly will also open up space if needed.