After a successful first year in their new location in the multi-agency accommodation project (MAAP) building, the Boundary Emergency and Transitional Housing Society (BETHS) extreme weather shelter is gearing up to start their second year.
Steven McGibbon, operations coordinator for BETHS shelter, said things went very well last year at the new location and they are hoping for another successful year this year.
“Whether it’s a coincidence or not, we doubled our bed nights from the previous year,” said McGibbon. “Last year we had 546 bed nights.”
It’s good that BETHS is able to provide a place to stay that’s safe, he added. “(Sleeping outside) can be potentially deadly. It can aggravate all sorts of health issues, not having a safe place to stay.”
The shelter also takes in people whose vehicle may have broke down and they couldn’t get a hotel or some similar situation.
“It’s not just the homeless here, it’s anyone who needs or requires a safe, secure place to stay,” he said. “We’re considered a low barrier shelter. Many other shelters will not let you in if you’ve had a drink or other substance. We accept those who have had substances as long as they comply with the rules. There is absolutely no use of drugs or alcohol on the property but we don’t turn anyone away if they’ve participated.”
McGibbon said the shelter relies heavily on volunteers to operate. Every single night, the shelter has a minimum of two people on duty (as required by law): one paid and one volunteer. The shelter is open to anyone including families with children.
McGibbon said the guests using the shelter have really appreciated the new features at the new location, including the shower and laundry facilities and common room with television, games and books.
“People coming in are usually a bit wary but after awhile they relax,” he said. “I have yet to hear anyone say it’s a terrible place. The typical comment is, ‘I’m really glad I came here. I was unsure. I feel comfortable.’”
Another huge benefit of the MAAP building is that the guests have immediate access to the soup kitchen at Whispers of Hope.
“Now when our guests leave in the morning they can go get something to eat in a warm place with Whispers of Hope,” said McGibbon.
McGibbon said that the shelter is always looking for volunteers to help out. Anyone interested can go down to BETHS and speak to McGibbon.