‘Last minute’ opening of Qualicum Beach warming centre leaves many homeless out in cold

CHEK

Tim Ferguson rushed to warm up at the Oceanside extreme weather shelter as soon as he could, after a down-to-the-wire vote by Qualicum Beach council late Thursday finally approved its opening.

“Surprised – that anything was being done,” Ferguson told CHEK News on Friday.

But the homeless Parkville man fears many of those living rough never found out in time and slept in the freezing cold.

“Nobody really knew about it. The word gets out but it was slow in coming,” said Ferguson.

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Unhoused people like Brandy Amero, who slept in her tent Thursday, question the reason for the last-minute decision when council had a week’s notice of the coming cold snap.

“Last minute, for fear of liability of people dying on the street, I guess. That’s what I feel like, anyway,” Amero told CHEK News.

“This could have been handled differently but we did what we did, and I take responsibility for a lot of this,” said Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek on Friday.

Westbroek said he was one of those who chose not to raise their hand in support of the shelter opening, after concerns raised by extreme weather shelters in neighbouring cities.

“It’s hard to sit there and vote in favour of something that you know has caused a lot of issues in other communities,” said Westbroek.

Now that the overnight shelter at Qualicum’s Christian Fellowship is staffed and funded between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., peer outreach worker Kelly Morris planned to spread the word to every homeless person in Oceanside that she could.

“I’ll be going out to every camp on the streets. I know where all their locations are. I’ll be telling them about the warming shelter,” said Morris. “But you know the town of Qualicum is a very heart-filled community. We could do better than this.”

Oceanside’s new extreme weather shelter will remain open for the remainder of this freezing weather, which isn’t forecast to rise above zero until Tuesday (January 16).

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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