For guests of White Rock’s emergency daytime warming centre, the space is more than just four walls plunked in a parking lot in the 14600-block of North Bluff Road.
“It has given me someone to talk to that cares and warm place to go and relax and let a bit of stress go,” writes Jay (not his real name) Monday, in a note sharing some of his thoughts about the facility that has been set up near the ball diamonds at Centennial Park.
That time, Jay continues, allows him “to be able to focus more on what I want and given me a possible way to get off street and stay clean so I can get back to work and get my own place to live I hope.
“As well as I have had food to eat and ppl that give a crap about ME.”
For Upkar Singh Tatlay – who heads the Engaged Communities Canada Society that is operating the centre – the sentiments highlight the importance of making such space available for those who may have nowhere else to turn.
Within the warming centre, which opened earlier this month in a modular trailer set up adjacent to the concession and washroom facility, guests are benefiting medically, mentally and socially – “so much is happening out of such a simple/small space,” Tatlay said.
As of Monday (Feb. 28), anywhere from 22 to 24 people have accessed the warming centre daily, and it’s hit maximum capacity – 30 – once.
Seeing the impact firsthand, Tatlay wonders what would happen to some of the guests if the centre was not in place.
As an example, he cited spotting an older man on Sunday (Feb. 27) who he recognized as a shelter guest walking on the road near the South Surrey Rec Centre. Connecting with him, Tatlay said he noticed a “huge decline” in the man’s cognition from the day prior, and upon further investigation, discovered blood on the back of his head, indicating an injury.
The man reluctantly went to hospital with a centre volunteer, but Tatlay doubts the gentleman would have sought care had he simply been left to his own devices.
“If we don’t have these spaces… the guys like that just continue to navigate the world on their own with these injuries.”
The warming centre is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., at times when the existing overnight shelter at nearby Mount Olive Lutheran Church (2350 148 St.) is activated. It opened about four weeks ago, after White Rock council authorized $160,000 for the temporary structure, following a report from recreation and culture director Eric Stepura confirming that Surrey had agreed to contribute 50 per cent of the cost, up to $80,000.
Tatlay said he’s appreciative not just of council’s support, but also for that from the public, which has ranged from friendly waves and visits to meal contributions.
The centre’s opening follows the closure in early January of a temporary warming centre that opened at Peninsula United Church when temperatures plummeted well below freezing over Christmas.
It’s to be in operation through March 15, and Tatlay said there’ll be a debriefing when it’s all said and done to evaluate its effectiveness.
He knows the work will not be over when the doors close later this month.
“It’ll be nice to debrief on how everything goes with this shelter but I know right away we’ve got to get into planing for what’s actually going to happen,” he said, referring to preparing for how to help during summer heat waves and when winter returns.
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