It was a wet, rainy, and cold day in Campbell River on Tuesday and if the weather this fall is any indication, then the winter ahead could be a hard one for those living on the streets.
“I’m worried that I’m going to be walking around trying to keep warm from place to place,” said Vic Cutler, who has been on the streets since June.
“We sleep outside the info centre and tuck into anywhere where it’s dry. There are many of us who sleep outside every night,” said Jennifer Joseph who has been in Campbell River for two months after leaving Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Cutler and Joseph are among the dozens — perhaps as many as 150 homeless people — in Campbell River. The city, which has a population of around 38,000 according to the last census in 2016, does not have an emergency overnight weather shelter for them to go to when severe weather hits.
Sue Moen of the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness said that needs to change.
“It’s past crunch time. Emergency weather shelters are usually in place by now. We are at November 9th and have yet to secure even a location.”
Campbell River does have a new daytime warming centre on 16th Avenue called Kwesa Place, where there is a steady stream of people each day grabbing a coffee and a snack, doing laundry or just escaping the chill outside.
“Usually on any given day we service from 45 to 75 different individuals,” said Shawn Decaire, Kwesa Place’s manager.
Kwesa Place will soon expand its operating hours from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. and management is exploring options to keep the doors open at night. Unfortunately, like so many other sectors right now, having enough staff is a problem.
“None of us were born to be homeless or addicts or alcoholics. Every one of us has a story or reason why we’re here and not all of us want to be here,” said Ron Dupuis, who was at the warming centre Tuesday.
There are other shelters in the city such as the Salvation Army Ever-Green House, but they are longer-term for people in transition.
“The emergency is now,” added Decaire. “The temperatures are hitting zero and below and they have nothing and they’re soaking wet.”
The Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness is asking anyone with space available for about 40 people to reach out to it at [email protected].