If all goes according to plan, the Salvation Army’s Lighthouse Emergency Shelter could see an expansion in its future.
Community services director David Byers explains that funds are available from BC Housing, Rotary and, perhaps, the Salvation Army.
“If we can somehow tap into this, we’re talking about an expansion to the shelter – more rooms, a new commercial kitchen, and we have to have a couple more offices,” he says. “We may be able to be open longer and then we could be eligible for more BC Housing funds.”
He says some preliminary plans are being drawn up.
“It all depends on how the time frame goes, whether the money will be available when all is said and done. We’re sure hoping to be able to do an expansion.”
Currently the shelter opens at 6:30 each night and people staying there must leave by 8:30 a.m. They receive a meal in the evening and breakfast before they leave in the morning.
Byers says the shelter has been about 70 to 75 per cent full recently.
“I’m actually surprised we’re not full, with the number of people telling us they don’t have anywhere to go.”
However, he says he realizes there are people who can’t stay at the shelter.
One fellow, he says, can’t stop smoking so he can’t stay because no one is allowed outside between 11 and 5. Others might have an animal. One man can’t bear to stay in a room with other people.
“The shelter is not a good fit for everybody. I think a lot of it is mental illness,” Byers says. “Some people don’t want to be around other people; they need to be on their own.”
The shelter has 12 beds in one room for men and four in another for women. Two staff work at the shelter each night, and volunteers pitch in with time and food.
Byers emphasizes how much the community support is appreciated and says it seems like the local Salvation Army is always having to ask residents for money.
He wonders when enough is enough for the community, especially when people’s disposable incomes are shrinking.
Running the shelter is expensive, he says, costing $19,000 to $20,000 per month.
“It takes a lot of money to keep it open. It’s mainly staffing costs,” he says, noting the government requirement is to have a male and a female staff member at all times when someone is staying at the shelter.
“It’s just expensive – heat and water.”
He notes the shelter needs a new washing machine, and it’s $4,500 for a washer and dryer.
The shelter normally opens November 1 and closes April 1.
Byers says, with the cold temperatures, it might be possible to stay open a little beyond April 1 this year, but he can’t
confirm that yet.
“If it’s miserable out hopefully we would be able to stay open – probably we would need the blessing of the Salvation Army.”