Burnaby extreme weather shelter preps for season

Burnaby's extreme weather shelter is gearing up for the season and calling for volunteers and donations to help.

The shelter operates, generally until March 31, only on nights when weather is severe enough that it can create a higher health risk to homeless people.

It is run out of the Westminster Bible Chapel, 7540 6th St., Burnaby and when open, provides shelter from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The extreme weather shelter is a project of the Burnaby Task Force on Homelessness and its mainly volunteer-run operations are overseen by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society.

Last winter, the relatively mild weather resulted in the shelter being used at most by six or seven people per night. But organizers are expecting this year to be much colder, said shelter co-coordinator Dave Brown of the Lookout society.

He said at the shelter's previous location, St. Francis de Sales church, on cold nights they saw upwards of 30 people per night.

"We expect this year to be a lot more than last year."

Brown is confident people who use the shelter are aware of its current location, where it moved a couple years ago. When it opens, Lookout notifies social service providers, posts notices at local libraries and community centres, and spreads the news through word of mouth.

Clients are fed "as soon as they get in the door" and throughout the night if they're hungry, Brown said.

Shelter organizers are seeking donations of non-perishable pre-packaged food that can be used to make meals or snacks, he said, noting they can't accept pre-prepared food due to health regulations.

They can always use warm sweaters or coats and new socks and new underwear to distribute to clients.

While two Lookout staff supervise and provide help with connecting clients to social service resources, the shelter is largely dependent on volunteers.

Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to call Kevan Oxley, 604-515-2728. To donate food or clothing, call Dave Brown, 778-288-8887.

"We appreciate the community allowing us to do this and for taking an understanding view of it," Brown said. "You know, [homelessness] could happen to anyone."

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