March 31 will spell the conclusion of the Boundary Emergency Transition Housing Society (BETHS) cold weather shelter’s second year and like the first, it has been a learning experience.
While Shelter Co-ordinator Tonya Galloway said that the first year – which lasted from February to March of 2011 – was more of a pilot project, there were a lot more people using the shelter, as the season started in November.
The shelter is currently run out of the Grand Forks Christian Centre.
“We opened Nov. 1 and it’s been a ride ever since. Of course, with it being a full season and being out there, things came forward that we didn’t expect would happen, like the (Grand Forks and Winnipeg) hotel fires,” she said. “We did have protocols and procedures in place to deal with that but it was something that no one could have foreseen.”
Galloway said that the funding is from B.C. Housing for emergency response and is weather contingent and because of this, the shelter won’t be available to extend its operation past March, despite some being displaced by the fire.
“In the fall again, there will be conversations with B.C. Housing and another application will go in and they will approve the funding as they see (fit) and if they accept BETHS’ proposal, they’ll make adjustments as necessary and start again with the cold weather,” explained Galloway.
As for what the future holds for the shelter, Galloway says that BETHS has a long-term vision with three phases.
The first phase consisted of the trial and opening, the second involved seeing how the five-month situation with full weather response would go and the third could see a permanent, fixed location.
“The partnership with the Grand Forks Christian Centre is amazing but it’s a functioning church that we take over every evening and when you’re looking at it being for five months, seven days a week, 12 hours a day, there are some limitations in terms of church use or what BETHS would like to do during the day,” explained Galloway.
“BETHS would like to see a permanent location and eventually down the road, the board of directors and BETHS have discussed a 24-hour shelter for 12 months a year so individuals that come in and need services at night could also have services during the day.”
Galloway and BETHS’ board of directors and staff would like to express thanks to the community partners, volunteers, and individuals who supported BETHS this season.
With the contributions of time and donations, the shelter was able to have a successful second year.