If this weekend’s turnout at Gateway of Hope’s first extreme weather response is any indicator of the need — service providers who help the homeless may be in for another busy winter in Langley.
When Gateway of Hope called its first Extreme Weather Response last Thursday, people living on the streets arrived en masse at the Langley homeless shelter.
Tiffany Sawatzky, Salvation Army’s residential services manager, said all 15 extreme weather mats were used and the regular 32 shelter beds and 30 relieft shelter beds were full all weekend long and into Monday night.
This was the first time this season that Gateway of Hope has called their extreme weather alert when temperatures dipped below zero.
When an extreme weather alert is called, Gateway opens up 15 extra mats to help shelter the homeless during inclement weather. It used to be 30 mats but they reduced it down to 15 because they have doubled the shelter size and are unable to accommodate more people in the building to maintain health and safety standards, said Sawatzky.
The shelter takes in people from 7 p.m. until 9:30 a.m. the next day.
The Salvation Army has been running its regular shelter at or near capacity every night for most of the year.
Last winter was particularly taxing on service providers who help the homeless. Due to the harsh winter Metro Vancouver experienced, Gateway had to call on the provincially funded Extreme Weather Response program for most of December and January, due to snow, ice and freezing temperatures.
They ran at 100 per cent capacity most of the winter, but didn’t turn anyone away.
The most recent homeless count, carried out in March, revealed that the Langleys have more than 200 people who are considered homeless. That number is a snapshot and is considered to be higher, said Langley’s outreach workers.
The homeless population has more than doubled in the past three years in the Langleys.
BC Housing and Stepping Stone Community Services Society are proposing to convert the existing 50-room Quality Inn hotel at 6465 201 Street into 49 units of supportive housing for the homeless.