Hope for Freedom Society’s Mark Foreman will pick up people who want a hot meal and a place to sleep for the night in a local church. (THE NEWS/files)

People hunkered down as temperatures dropped in Maple Ridge

No corresponding increase in shelter use

Winds blasted Maple Ridge late last week followed by snow on Monday and Tuesday, with temperatures dipping to -10 C, but that doesn’t seem to have a direct effect on the numbers of people seeking emergency shelter out of the cold.

Darrell Pilgrim, with Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, said that 12 to 13 people a night are still coming into the 25-bed emergency shelter on Lougheed Highway, in the old mattress shop, formerly the site of the temporary emergency shelter at 22239 Lougheed Hwy.

The shelter opened when an extreme weather response was declared in Maple Ridge on Feb. 3 and provides 25 beds and serves as an emergency overflow centre for the 60 beds at the Salvation Army’s Caring Place on Lougheed Highway.

Pilgrim said often, once people get settled into a space, they stay there.

“I think once people are comfortable in the spot that they’re in, I think they’re hunkered down to take it whatever the weather is. It doesn’t seem like it changes. It doesn’t matter if it’s -10 C or -2 C. I’ve never been out there. I don’t know why people make those decisions, but that seems to be what happens.”

He didn’t know how many people were there on Monday night, but 11 people stayed at the emergency shelter on Sunday night.

Pilgrim said the emergency shelter likely will stay open the rest of the week.

He added that the Salvation Army didn’t see a huge increase in people coming to the emergency shelter throughout the entire cold spell in the last few weeks, even though its location is well advertised to street people.

Rob Thiessen, with the Hope for Freedom Society that runs the Mat Program, which gives people a hot meal, a place to sleep and breakfast in local churches, said that usually about 10 people a night use the program.

However, only three people stayed at Maple Ridge Baptist Church on Monday night, he added.

He also said there’s no correlation between the cold weather and the number of people who come into the program.

“The snowy weather doesn’t necessarily bring them in. Last night was down, it’s usually up around 10.”

He said he’s never been able to figure out any reason as to why a given number of people show up at shelters on any given night, except that numbers usually will be down on Wednesdays when income assistance cheques are distributed.

Thiessen added that five people in Maple Ridge who used the program went into treatment and two more were found housing since October.

He added that the fact that people who stay overnight can’t use drugs while on the premises could be a factor in numbers not increasing.

Thiessen said that since October, the Mat Program has moved 36 people off the streets in the Tri-Cities and Maple Ridge area.

The program wraps up March 31.

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