Older homeless people in Abbotsford have a new calm, quiet and warm place to rest their heads at night.
A temporary shelter opened Wednesday night for men and women 50 years old and up.
“A bunch of grandmas and grandpas” filled the 15 beds laid out on the floor of a storage warehouse at the Mennonite Central Committee building on Gladys Road, according to organizer Jesse Wegenast.
The 5 and 2 Ministries pastor said the 15 mats will be laid out every night between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. until March 31. By 8:30 a.m. each weekday morning, the space will turn back into a working warehouse, he said.
Wegenast said he tried to find a more suitable location for the cold-months shelter in the Clearbrook area but was unable to.
The 15 individuals who slept at the MCC on its first night will have a bed available to them as long as they don’t miss more than one night, he said. They will also have case planning available to them offsite to try to secure more permanent housing, Wegenast said.
In addition to being a placid environment better suited to the older crowd, Wegenast said the new shelter will greatly improve health outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people living on Abbotsford’s streets.
“From a cost end of things, if you can spare two or three people two- or three-week stays in the hospital, then the shelter pays for itself,” he said.
But, Wegenast said, the shelter is by no means a final answer to homelessness in Abbotsford, where the number of elderly people living on the streets is growing. He said he purposefully did not broadly advertise the shelter before it was open to avoid having to turn people away on its first night.
READ: Homeless numbers spike 79 per cent in Abbotsford
The space is being donated by MCC. The Salvation Army, Lookout Society, Abbotsford Community Services and City of Abbotsford have all helped to make it happen with funding from B.C. Housing, Wegenast said.