Beginning Nov. 1, people in need had access to more places to spend the night.
“In the past, we’ve had only what is called an extreme weather shelter that ran from November to March and that was a 12-bed operation,” said Salvation Army. The hours of operation were 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Now we have a year-long shelter operation,” Winter said, which is called a Sobering and Assessment Program.
This facility is open from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., 365 days a year, he said.
The number of beds available between November and March are now 12, and from April to October there are six. “We’ve never had that before,” said Winter.
The extreme weather shelter (the six beds) is funded by BC Housing and the additional six beds open year round are funded by the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
The Sobering and Assessment Program, Winter explained, is an entry based, harm reduction philosophy.
“It’s trauma informed so the staff is trained to deal with the needs of the people that are accessing the services.”
There is also a new position in the community called a Rapid Response Nurse which is also funded by VIHA.
“They will be working alongside the program to provide clinical care, safety plans and ensure proper assessment protocols are being fulfilled,” said Winter. “It’s a great thing for the community.”
In 2014, the shelter was open 152 nights and had 624 shelter stays. In 2015, it rose to 873 – a 40 per cent.
When the extreme weather shelter closes in March, it impacts the whole community. In April, the number of individuals in cells double; and the emergency wards are flooded.
“It costs the municipality a lot of money because BC Ambulance personnel, RCMP and emergency ward staff take care of these individuals.”
When the beds were not available, there “people living on the streets, larger numbers of public intoxication, loitering, a lot of break and enters and it just was effecting the community negatively,” Winter added.
“The whole purpose of this is to offer a safe, and humane way of looking after the community with longterm goals and initiatives in place, rather than short-term solutions.”