Two Semiahmoo Peninsula residents appeared before White Rock council’s regular virtual meeting Monday to ask for the city’s help in providing an emergency daytime warming centre for the community’s homeless.
Cheryl Lightowlers’ and Kathy Booth’s request for such a centre was received favourably by council.
Members unanimously endorsed a motion from Coun. Anthony Manning to ask CAO Guillermo Ferrero for a staff report on options to provide a centre that would accommodate between 25 and 30 people in the daytime.
Mayor Darryl Walker also offered to facilitate a meeting with Lightowlers and Booth and others to discuss the needs and the possibilities for meeting them.
Leisure Services director Eric Stepura warned that city facilities are already fully booked with recreational programs and said that while he agrees there is a need for a warming centre, if any recreational programs are displaced “there’s going to be a lot of upset residents in White Rock.”
Ferrero was optimistic however that staff could come up with some solutions.
“Anything is possible,” he told council.
The absence of warming centres in either White Rock or Surrey was raised earlier this month when Options Community Services – which operates extreme weather shelters at Peace Portal Alliance Church in South Surrey, the Pacific Community Church in Cloverdale and the Ladner United Church – was forced to exceed COVID-19 distancing protocols to avoid sending away clients in sub-zero night-time temperatures.
Even if clients are accommodated in extreme night time shelters, managers say there is nowhere to send homeless clients the following morning.