Mount Olive Lutheran Church is to host this year’s extreme weather shelter for the White Rock/South Surrey area.
Information posted recently to the 2350 148 St. church’s website confirms the commitment.
Options Community Services “has years of experience in operating this type of facility and we look forward to offering this service with co-operation and participation from neighboring churches to do God’s work by serving the needs of some of our community’s most vulnerable members,” a newsletter announcing the decision states.
“Council members continue to work out the details with Options, (the agency that will be staffing the facility) and we are pleased to have the support of other neighbouring churches including Peninsula United and Peace Portal.
“We will keep you informed as we move closer to providing this important ministry for those in our community who need a warm and dry place to spend the night when an Extreme Weather Alert is issued.”
Extreme weather shelters operate at various sites from November until the end of March, typically only opening during extreme-weather incidents, including heavy rain and when temperatures drop below freezing.
Last year, Peace Portal Alliance Church hosted the shelter for the Semiahmoo Peninsula, welcoming more than 3,200 guests – anywhere from 20 to 37 every night, regardless of weather conditions – between Nov. 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. Of those, approximately 40 per cent were seniors.
It operated two years previous to that at White Rock’s Star of the Sea Hall, following demolition of the First United Church.
Earlier this year, Kathy Booth – who said Monday (Oct. 18) that she is assisting this year with co-ordination of shelter volunteers – and Cheryl Lightowlers appeared before White Rock council to plead for the establishment of a daytime warming shelter in the city to augment the cold-weather shelter.
While at the time, council supported a motion to refer the matter to staff for a report on options for providing such a facility that could accommodate 25-30 people, ultimately a longer-term approach was endorsed, in which city staff would join with representatives of the City of Surrey and other stakeholders to “address the needs of at-risk and vulnerable people living in White Rock and South Surrey, including those who are food insecure and homeless.”
The first meeting of the At Risk and Vulnerable Population Task Force – of which Booth is a member – was held June 17. According to minutes of the Sept. 2 meeting, a “level of urgency” was noted on discussion of “a full-time shelter (or ‘permanent housing’) in the South Surrey and White Rock area” – identified as one of three priority items for the task force.
The minutes note that the City of Surrey is “still interested in modular housing with the intention to locate land for this in White Rock, which would then be purchased by the City of Surrey.” As well, if the project did not progress quickly in the months following, that it may have to wait until later next year.
A ‘housing first’ model, consideration of a population needs assessment specific to the White Rock/South Surrey area and the importance of determining the type of services that may be required were also discussed.
In an Oct. 18 email to Peace Arch News, Booth noted that the Mount Olive Lutheran Church has no storage and cannot receive drop-off donations for the shelter. Anyone interested in assisting with food preparation or wanting to donate socks, warm (and waterproof) gloves and coats or small toiletry items may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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