City staff could be looking into the possibility of opening an extreme weather shelter in North Delta in the future, after a staff report showed Delta didn’t know how badly it needed a shelter until it got one.
“It’s one of the ones I view much like the transition house in North Delta, it’s unfortunate that it’s so successful,” Delta’s director of corporate services Sean McGill said. “But it really was much needed.”
During the council meeting Monday night (May 28), Delta staff brought forward a report on the extreme weather shelter in Ladner, which opened for the first time on Nov. 22, 2017.
The shelter, which was located in the Ladner United Church, closed on March 31 after being open for a total of 69 days. (The shelter was open only when an emergency weather alert was called, and stayed open from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.)
Surprisingly, the shelter was open mostly because of relentless rain rather than extreme cold.
According to the report, shelter use increased as the winter progressed, likely because more people became aware of its existence. Throughout its use, there were 29 days when no one was in the shelter, and 40 when at least one person was there.
Of the 64 people who used the shelter, nearly two thirds were women. Many were in precarious or temporary housing, while others were newly evicted. Some were homeless youth, and others were people in transit.
In one case, Delta’s social planner Gillian McLeod was called outside city hall because there was someone sitting outside the building. They had missed their last chance to get on the ferry, or didn’t have the money to get on the ferry, McGill explained.
McLeod “arranged to have them brought to the shelter, arranged the next day to get them money so they could get home,” McGill said. “So they were in a transient state for sure.”
The shelter was also used by families who had lost the ability to pay rent for a month or two, and were stuck until they got back on their feet.
No one from Delta’s well-known homeless community used the shelter.
During the meeting, Counc. Sylvia Bishop asked how many North Deltans used the shelter while it was open.
Although McGill said they didn’t take those details from the people who used the shelter — they wanted to make the shelter as welcoming as possible — but people in North Delta would have been able to be transported by Delta police to the shelter if needed.
One of the recommendations in the report was that staff from Options, B.C. Housing, the City of Delta and Ladner United Church meet to discuss what needs to change for the 2018/2019 winter season.
Some suggestions included installing a large washer and dryer in the church, which could be used by people in precarious housing situations throughout the year. Staff will report back to council with the results of the meeting.
But Delta’s staff will also be looking at what needs to change from the city side, and whether location in North Delta might be needed in the future.
“I think we should keep the door open to that consideration, given the size of the population in North Delta and just down the road, unfortunately, it may be needed,” Counc. Jeannie Kanakos said in the meeting.