A new temporary shelter for the homeless in White Rock and South Surrey has been established at Peace Portal Alliance Church.
Rev. Joan McMurtry, who has been working as an independent community advocate for a temporary shelter during the pandemic, announced that the shelter, managed by Options Community Services society in collaboration with the church, was open as of Wednesday night.
The shelter will be open at the church (located at the corner of King George Boulevard and 152 Street, with entry from the back of the building on the boulevard side) every night from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. until June 30.
The shelter offers a safe place to sleep for those who have been forced to sleep outside, for whatever reason. Also provided is food, showers and access to information about other resources.
The society notes that guests will be required to physical distance, and will be offered a disposable surgical mask. In the case that coughing or other COVID-19 symptoms are observed, guests will be required to wear a mask and will be referred to medical support.
Options, funded through BC Housing, already operates shelters in the Fleetwood and Cloverdale areas.
“This was initiated by Options to address issues around the pandemic, to provide a safe place for people to spend the night during the current crisis,” McMurtry told Peace Arch News.
“There are other temporary facilities that are more medical shelters, focused on people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 – but this one is for regular folks, to give them somewhere safe to stay.”
McMurtry said thanks are due to Peace Portal Alliance elders and staff – including local and global engagement pastor Jon LeFave – for stepping up to provide the church’s gymnasium for the temporary shelter, and the Source White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank for providing food and other assistance.
She also credited the City of White Rock for helping advocate for a local shelter after council, on staff advice, rejected Options’ proposal to use White Rock Community Centre for the purpose.
McMurtry, who is on the steering committee of the Peninsula Homeless to Housing Task Force, traces her involvement in offering shelter facilities for the most vulnerable in the community back some 14 years, to when the extreme weather shelter was opened at White Rock First United Church while she was pastor there.
“It’s my passion,” she said. “I work with whoever is trying to make it happen.”
The extreme weather shelter moved to Star of the Sea Roman Catholic church for two years after White Rock First United Church was demolished for site redevelopment, but McMurtry noted Star of the Sea will not be available for the shelter next winter.
She said Peninsula United Church and Options will continue to looking for a new site for that for the next couple of years, as well as trying to identify another site for a year-round shelter.
For more information on the temporary shelter, call Options at 604-599-8900.