First United Church. (File photo)

First United Church. (File photo)

White Rock shelter seeking volunteers, new location

Shelter organizers confident new location will be found

As organizers of the White Rock First United Church extreme-weather shelter begin their search for volunteers, they’re also seeking a new facility to temporarily host the shelter for the 2018 winter season.

Last June, First United Church member Kathy Booth visited the Peninsula Homeless to Housing (PH2H) monthly meeting and asked members to search for a new facility in the South Surrey/White Rock area to host the shelter once redevelopment begins of the church at the start of 2018.

Although organizers have yet to find a new temporary location for the shelter, Joan McMurtry said the issue is not a cause for concern.

“There’s for sure a commitment that (relocation) will happen in our community. We will find another place to go with our resources, we will partner with another facility. There’s no worries that we will have to close,” she told Peace Arch News Friday.

McMurtry said the relocation of the shelter is only contingent on the First United building being demolished in January, although she said she’s not involved in the redevelopment discussion, she said “that’s not for sure, either. But that’s the plan.”

“You know what it’s like with development issues.”

The extreme-weather shelter will be held in the First United Church – during extreme weather events or sub-zero temperatures – until it’s forced to relocate.

Church officials held an invitation-only open house last July where neighbours of the church perused sketches of a proposed four-storey facility. The drawings showed a three-level care home and a one-level church on the 15385 Semiahmoo Ave. property.

The church facility – to be located on the site of the current parking lot – will have a space for the extreme-weather shelter.

The shelter, which is staffed in part by volunteers and Options Community Services, has a variety of positions – both administrative and hands-on – available for the 2017-18 season.

McMurtry says the volunteer shifts include a one-hour shift in the morning and a two-hour shift in the evening. Volunteers working the evening shift will be responsible for preparing the First United Church hall for the guests and prepare a light meal. In the morning, volunteers will make sandwiches for the guests and clean the hall.

Aside from hands-on volunteer opportunities, McMurtry said there’s also a need for volunteers to shop, put up posters in the community during extreme-weather events and other administrative responsibilities.

“It could be quite a rewarding experience. It’s very limited in the number of hours that are expected, it’s meaningful work. Our goal is to make sure that people don’t freeze to death and, provide a safe and accepting environment.”

First United Church will host a shelter orientation – which includes a simple supper – Sept. 27 from 5:30-9 p.m.

Later this fall, organizers will provide training for people that are not comfortable or familiar with how to relate to people who are homeless.

RSVP to the Sept. 27 orientation by emailing kathy.booth@hotmail.com

Although dependant on weather, the extreme-weather shelter is typically open for its first night of the season in November.