The City of Nanaimo is going to fund two more warming centres this winter, bringing the total to three.
It means there will be space for nearly 140 individuals, which the city’s mayor says is still not enough.
The City announced its plans and the warming centre locations Wednesday.
The Nanaimo Bakery on Bowen Road that recently closed will be one of them.
“We’re really excited to be able to offer this. It fits within our mandate and although it’s only an interim thing, I know the city is working toward more long-term solutions,” said Violet Hayes, the executive director of the Island Crisis Care Society.
It will open its doors Jan. 2 and will be able to host up to 60 people, seven days a week between noon and 7 p.m.
It’s hoped neighbours will be supportive.
“We’ve got a letter ready too, and so I’m just going to go door to door with the letter and talk to people and assure them that we’ve got security that will be here at night time when we’re not here, just to make sure everything is safe,” said Hayes.
The other warming centre will go into a Victoria Road building and is expected to open by the end of next week for up to 30 people at a time. It also hopes to be more than just a warming centre.
“We’re hoping to ladder them into connections with other services that might ultimately end up in keeping them off the streets, and we’re hoping to save lives,” said Gord Fuller of The 7-10 Club.
Not all approve
This location is already under fire by the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association. It says while it supports the much-needed warming centres, too many services for the unhoused are downtown.
“Every other neighbourhood in Nanaimo where there’s a suitable commercial space, the landlord’s refused, so who really is the NIMBY here? We’re dealing with an extreme concentration of suffering in the downtown,” said Collen Middleton, chair of the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association.
Nanaimo’s Mayor Leonard Krog defended council’s decisions, saying more warming spaces are needed.
“That’s a fair criticism keeping in mind that probably the most substantial number of those who are unhoused, suffering with mental health addictions, trauma or brain injury are in fact in the downtown area – but of course one of the warming centres is out on Bowen Road,” said Krog.
Risebridge, which is already operating the other warming centre in Nanaimo, says it’s been over capacity almost daily and other warming centres and services are critical to keep people safe this winter.
The city has not disclosed the cost of these warming centres as it says the contracts are still being negotiated with the service providers.