Temporary location needed for White Rock shelter

The redevelopment of White Rock First United Church is expected to begin in January.

Although few details have emerged, the redevelopment of White Rock First United Church is expected to begin in January.

At Friday’s Peninsula Homeless to Housing (PH2H) meeting, Kathy Booth, a member of First United Church, put out a plea to PH2H members to help find a new location for the church’s extreme-weather shelter once redevelopment begins in 2018.

“We are anxiously looking for a new home for the shelter,” she told committee members.

Following the meeting, Booth answered a few questions from Peace Arch News about the redevelopment before referring further questions to First United Church Rev. Louise Cummings, who did not respond to request for comment by press time Tuesday.

Booth told PAN the building is going to be a residential “memory-care facility,” a multipurpose space, a church and will “absolutely” have space for an extreme-weather shelter once it’s complete in perhaps two years.

Discussions around redevelopment of the church, located at 15385 Semiahmoo Ave., were spurred by concerns with its long-term financial sustainability several years ago. One of the original proposed plans – brought to light in 2013 – was the possibility of a residential complex, including four storeys of affordable housing.

Last December, church officials told PAN the affordable-housing component had been taken off the table, saying the decision was that of the developer.

The extreme-weather shelter has been operating out of the church during extreme weather events every winter since 2009.

Last year marked the busiest the shelter has been.

Booth told PH2H members that more than 900 guests used the volunteer-run shelter, and it was open for more than 70 nights last season. She said First United Church may be able to operate the shelter this fall, but will need another organization, facility or church to absorb that responsibility in January.

Preferential requirements laid out by Booth included that the shelter be located close to White Rock, near public transit, with space for 15 people, a storage facility, a kitchen, washroom and provide a safe environment.

Though the First United Church extreme-weather shelter – operated by Options Community Services – has a capacity for 15 homeless people, Booth noted the shelter was used by 20 people “many nights.”

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