White Rock extreme-weather shelter had 543 visits so far this season

White Rock extreme-weather shelter had 543 visits so far this season

Shelter expected to move within two weeks

The First United Church extreme-weather shelter has had 543 guest visits since it opened its doors in November.

Shelter co-ordinator Kathy Booth told the Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force Friday that the shelter has been open 40 nights this season, including 25 nights in December.

The shelter, which has a maximum capacity of 15 people per night, housed 23 guests on one cold night in December, and averages about 13-14 visits when it opens during cold-weather events, Booth said.

Following the PH2H meeting, Booth told Peace Arch News that both men and women use the shelter, and that they range in age from 19 years old to over 50.

“We certainly notice that we have working people that are coming, the working poor,” Booth told members of the task force, which is made up of different faith groups, social service agencies and citizens from the Semiahmoo Peninsula. “We did notice that the population seems more (vulnerable).”

Booth said that the guests are both respectful and thankful for the service, and that she wished to thank members of the community who have donated blankets, toiletries and warm clothing.

“Not accepting donations at this time in anticipation of the move,” she told PAN by email.

Booth said that Peninsula United Church, which operates the shelter with Options Community Services Society, is in the process of finalizing the shelter’s temporary relocation to Star of the Sea Centre (15262 Pacific Ave.).

“Thanks to Star of the Sea, they have done some really good renovations, very helpful renovations. Including a shower and special storage, we really appreciate that,” she said at the PH2H meeting.

Among renovations will be relocating the dishwasher from First United to Star of the Sea, as meals will be prepared for homeless people making use of the shelter.

Booth said they don’t have an exact date on the relocation, but “we anticipate that it’s going to be within the next couple of weeks.”

Regular church services at First United, located at 15385 Semiahmoo Ave., have stopped.

An application to redevelop the site has been submitted to White Rock city hall. The plan, which has yet to be approved, is for a memory-care facility, with space for worship as well as space for an extreme-weather shelter.

Discussions around the redevelopment project were spurred by concerns with the church’s long-term financial sustainability several years ago. One of the original plans – brought to light in 2013 – was the possibility of affordable housing.

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