Nanaimo warming centre reopens after sudden closure earlier this month


A Nanaimo warming centre that was suddenly shut down in early December is operating again, much to the relief of those who use it.

“It’s always nice to have a place to go when you’re homeless,” said Rob Poystila, who’s been living without a place to call home for three months.

The Society for Equity, Inclusion and Advocacy suddenly laid off its staff on December 2nd and closed Nanaimo’s only warming centre days later.

The society also laid a complaint with police about a potential theft of more than $100,000.

“We heard about the troubles and we just signalled to the United Way that we may have the capacity to get a centre back up,” said Jason Harrison, the Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Society Mid-Island Branch.

Harrison says there have been some hurdles to overcome and they wanted to be respectful of SEIA’s staff who had been laid off through no fault of their own but they were able to reopen the warming centre a few days before Christmas.

“Even before all the snow and the cold weather we just knew that there are so many people in need and not enough shelter spaces and not enough spaces for people to get out of the weather,” said Harrison.

The agency now running the warming centre has hired a few of SEIA’s former workers.

Another group Risebridge has opened another Nanaimo warming centre, nearby on Terminal Avenue, meaning there is a place to go warm up throughout the day.

And just two days ago the 7-10 Club has opened a third option during the extreme cold when daytime highs are below minus 2 degrees.

“We’re a small warming centre. We offer mostly coffee, snacks and just a safe place to warm up while they’re waiting to have a shower or go see their friends,” said Justice Chalifoux of the 7-10 Club.

The Canadian Mental Health Association says they’re glad to have the warming centre open but there also needs to be more shelter beds and housing to help the marginalized.

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Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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