BC Housing made things clear last week for members of the Grand Forks Social Services Advisory Group – the table that is exploring options for a winter shelter in the region. Before the Crown corporation can fund anything, they need to have three things defined: an operator, a location and the approval of City council.
A representative from one potential location came forward at the meeting. Gabe Warriner, representing the River Valley Community Church, responded to a previous letter sent to him by the advisory group, told those present “I’m committed, with clarifications.”
Warriner’s church, which has housed volunteers from The Samaritan’s Purse and from Mennonite Disaster Relief over the past two summers, when the groups came to support flood recovery in Grand Forks, has washrooms (no showers) and space for sleeping in the basement, the pastor said.
However, Warriner expressed concern about what would have to be changed or monitored to make his church a viable solution. The pastor explained that he was wary of have cross-over between children’s programs, which run twice a week in the evenings, and individuals who would be using the space for shelter. (There has been no determination from the advisory group of whether a future emergency shelter in Grand Forks would be open 24 hours per day, or just through the night).
The group asked Warriner to make explicit a list of criteria that would need to be satisfied in order for the space at River Valley Community Church to be used as a shelter space. Warriner said he would aim to compile a list and run over the details with the church council within the week.
At the meeting, the group discussed how, in other communities such as Port Coquitlam, emergency shelter spaces rotated through various churches to provide reliable shelter while reducing the resource burden on any individual space. Though the advisory group had sent letters to all churches in Grand Forks, River Valley Community Church was the only one represented at last week’s meeting.
Meanwhile, another group of Grand Forks residents working under the name “Grand Forks Humanitarian Action” have taken it upon themselves to get behind direct efforts to support people experiencing homelessness in the Grand Forks area.
“I’m sure there are more people here who have huge compassion, huge heart, but don’t know what to do,” said Terri Taggert, one of the group’s couple dozen members.
The group has been furnishing individuals with sleeping bags, blankets and wood, among other necessities for riding out the cold.