The recent cool stretch has the Salvation Army’s Caring Place opening its doors and activating its extreme-weather beds.
Caring Place executive-director Darrell Pilgrim says the extra sleeping space is drawing two or three people a night.
Money for the extreme weather beds comes from the provincial government and each shelter decides when to open them.
The beds opened Friday in Maple Ridge as temperatures dropped to 0 C, and will stay open until the cool spell ends.
The year before, about 10 people a night were using the Caring Place’s extreme-weather beds. They are actually mats spread out on the cafeteria floor, but provide a warm place to sleep on cool or rainy nights.
Pilgrim has been told, however, that people are still camping out in Maple Ridge, including along the Haney Bypass, near the Salvation Army building.
“Last winter, we had more people coming into the extreme weather shelter because now, with the other shelter open, too, some of the people were staying over there,” Pilgrim said.
“It’s a sizable decrease.”
The temporary homeless shelter operated by the city is located across Lougheed Highway and opened in October. For six months it is to provide 40 spaces for those who were camping on Cliff Avenue, behind the Salvation Army.
The Caring Place has room and funding for 15 extreme weather beds, until March.
Close to 1,200 temporary emergency shelter spaces will be available this winter in about 100 communities throughout B.C.
Pilgrim said the Caring Place is currently able to meet the needs in Maple Ridge and welcomes the opening of the city’s temporary homeless shelter, at 22239 Lougheed Highway, funded by B.C. Housing.
“The community and B.C. Housing have spent a lot more money on homelessness in the past year than it ever has before. We’re seeing successes. There are more people housed than ever before, which is great,” Pilgrim said.
The 25-bed emergency shelter that operates year round at the Caring Place is also mostly occupied, with the men’s section at about 80 per cent occupancy.
Pilgrim pointed out that most people who go to the Salvation Army are not the street entrenched, but those have just lost a job or have been evicted from their apartment or suite.
“All those things happen, all the time,” he said. “The majority of people who come to this facility, they come because of those circumstances. They haven’t been homeless for a long time. They’re just down on their luck.”
The Salvation Army could use a bit of help, however, during this winter.
“We need new toques, gloves, scarves and socks,” said Pilgrim.
“These are things we are short of right now.”
The Caring Place doesn’t have room to store coats, but the smaller items it can find room for, he added.
Last Friday, the Salvation Army launched its Christmas Kettle campaign and it still needs volunteers to man the kettles and collect the cash. The goal is to raise $92,000, most of which goes to fund the shelter’s meal program, which provides two meals a day, and about 7,000 a month.
He added the local operation is still waiting to hear if it will be involved with helping the Syrian refugees when they arrive at the end of the year. About 3,000 are expected to settle in the Metro Vancouver area.