Two weeks following the opening of the library’s upper level to create a temporary extreme weather shelter for Bowen’s homeless, a group calling itself the Bowen Emergency Shelter Team (BEST) is hoping that the board of Collins Hall will offer the space up for a shelter after it was initially turned down. Members of the group says this location is a good start, but not ideal and they want council’s support in finding a better long-term solution.
“We’ll go with Collins Hall for now if that works out, but we really need something in the Cove for the long-term,” says Aryana Rayne. “According to our research, most municipalities in British Columbia have emergency shelters. Grand Forks, a community of roughly 4,000 people has one and is considering the creation of a year-round shelter, for example.”
Rayne adds that there is still no formal outreach program.
“The only person doing any kind of outreach is Michael Chapman,” she says. “We put a call out last week asking people to step forward and help - Michael said he would go out with anyone interested and help make introductions, but the only reply was one individual who offered to cook.”
On Tuesday, Rayne met with the municipality’s Emergency Services Co-ordinator, Jennifer McGowan, to sort out what needs to be done in order to get a shelter funded by BC Housing.
Members of BEST met the following morning to start crafting an emergency response plan.
“If we do get Collins Hall is offered up as an extreme weather shelter, we’re going to have to sort out a lot of details to get it running. We’ll need to know who is going to run it, set it up, do outreach - and we’re going to have to define extreme weather in order to access funding from BC Housing,” says Rayne. “What we do know, is that the cold weather will be back soon, and we’ve got a moral duty to get a shelter set up. From there, we can look to longer term solutions, including housing options for our most vulnerable residents.”