FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – With the colder temperatures here to stay for the next few days, the Salvation Army says they are prepared to help give shelter to those who are cold.
Sheldon Feener with the Salvation Army says they are ready at this time of year to help serve those who need it.
“We do a number of things. We have our facility on 100th Avenue which is the one next to our thrift store. We leave the doors open so that people can come in and warm up and have a coffee, have a snack, we leave those doors open throughout the day, all year long so that doesn’t change regardless of the temperature.”
Feener says he isn’t sure if people are aware they are welcome to drop in from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and then again from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. When it comes to the shelter, they extend those hours to accommodate more people.
“At the shelter, we extend our drop in hours. The drop in normally closes from 1:00 to 4:00 so we have an opportunity to clean up. We extend those hours so we only close, if we close at all, we will maybe close for an hour but when we close we do it while we are open over here (at the other location) so that we still make sure people have a place to go. We don’t want to put them out in the cold.”
He says they do see many people come through when times get the way they are but they are happy to help.
“We see people all the time. It is unfortunate that they have don’t have anywhere to go but we are glad to be able to provide a place for them to get warm and just sit down and relax for a little bit. We know that it can be very difficult.”
Feener says they don’t really run into any problems when it comes to having to turn people away. They have yet to reach that point or encounter that situation.
“Between both our facilities, we’ve never gotten to the point where we have had to say ‘we have no more room’. We’ve been very blessed to have the room to be able to do this. We’ve also got an additional 28 cold weather beds that we opened up for the first time last year and are again opened this year.”
With the 28 cold weather beds that were added last year, they now have a total of 92 beds that they can offer to those who need a place to stay when the weather gets this cold. The beds open at the start of November.
B.C. Housing did give permission to open the beds earlier this year in October when the cold weather hit hard.
The beds are filled quickly and have been filling quickly the last few days according to Feener. Something that won’t change as the cold weather is expected to linger for a week or so according to Environment Canada meteorologists.
“If we get to the point where we are full, we will allow them to come inside and sit in the lobby to stay warm. We aren’t going to purposely put anyone outside.
We’re equipped for it, we’re prepared for it and that is what we do. We are ready to handle it.”
Feener says they always have staff at the shelter because it is open 24/7. They do add more staff during the cold weather months because they have the additional beds.
“We don’t see a break until January but that is ok. We knew all of that when we started doing this and we love to do it. It is part of what we are.”