Maple Ridge shelter clients want inside
Hunched over his bicycle, Tim Scott is wearing four layers of clothes but is still freezing. He hasn’t been able to thaw since breakfast.
“I just keep moving,” says Scott, who has a broken back and is homeless.
On Tuesday, as the daytime high hovered around zero, Scott and Kris Dennhardt were counting the hours till lunch at the Caring Place, when they would finally warm up.
“I’m not dressed for this weather,” said Dennhardt, wearing three layers of clothes and a toque. “I can hardly feel my toes.”
With an Arctic cold lingering over Metro Vancouver and temperatures expected to plunge as low as – 10 C by the weekend, clients of the Maple Ridge Salvation Army shelter claim staff are turfing them on to the street in the morning.
“You’ll see it after breakfast, 50 people running out, trying to find somewhere warm. They are under-clothed, under-nourished, mentally challenged, physically incapable,” said Dennhardt. “Some of these people can’t help themselves.”
Sometimes, clients are allowed back in at 8 a.m. but at other time, Dennhardt claims they are told to stay out till lunch. The scenario repeats itself again until dinner, when clients are sent out again until they line up for a shelter bed.
“You can’t even use the washroom,” he adds.
Dennhardt believes the Salvation Army shelter should bend its rules during inclement weather and allow clients to stay indoors for the better part of the day.
“Something’s got to change,” said Dennhardt, accusing shelter staff of favouring some people, while blacklisting others who speak out.
“If you say something, you are banned. It’s a good place, if you are on the right side of people. I’m speaking out for other people, where are we supposed to go? How are we supposed to keep warm?”
The Caring Place, however, insists no one is being sent into the cold.
“There are very few times when we are closed,” said director Darrell Pilgrim, explaining that staff usually need an hour to clean between meals and let people in once the space is mopped and swept.
The shelter’s drop-in is usually closed on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoon, but Pilgrim said during cold snaps it remains open throughout the day so clients can warm up with coffee.
“We are not turning anybody away,” Pilgrim added. “The only reason someone is turned away is because they’ve been violent or threaten violence.”
The Caring Place reports that all its shelter spaces have been filled since temperatures began dipping below zero. That includes all 15 of its cold-wet weather mats, available until the end of March, and the 25 beds it has year-round.
If needed, the shelter will put down more mats and has an extra staff member on-call to meet demands.
“We are prepared to call in extra staff,” said Pilgrim.
“We want to make sure no one is left on the streets and everybody has a place to stay.”
The Caring Place is in dire need for new socks and underwear for men and women, as well as coffee. To donate call 604-463-8296.
Coldest Night of The Year
The Salvation Army Caring Place is bundling up and hitting the pavement Feb. 22 as part of the Coldest Night of the Year, a family-friendly winter fundraising event for Maple Ridge’s homeless, hungry and hurting.
The Maple Ridge walk begins and ends at The Salvation Army Caring Place, located at 22188 Lougheed Hwy. Participants will choose a 5 km or 10 km route, and will warm up with toasty drinks at rest stops along the way. The Caring Place has set sights on raising $25,000 so far 70 people have signed up. To register, participants should visit coldestnightoftheyear.org/location/mapleridge. Each participant and team receives their own fundraising page, complete with tools and tips on how to make the walk a success.