Castlegar’s shelter for people with nowhere else to go this winter remains on track to open in early December.
But while it be in the same location as the previous Way Out shelter that closed at the end of March, neither the service model nor the building will look the same, according to the manager.
“It’s been a tough job,” said Deb McIntosh. “We’re hiring people. We have a good team coming forward and we’re working hard to make sure our vulnerable population is taken care of to the best of our ability.”
McIntosh is working for Castlegar and District Community Services, which also ran the previous shelter with support from BC Housing. The organization has new management and a new board.
McIntosh said in preparation for what will be known as the Out of the Cold shelter, the building has received considerable modifications, including new walls, security doors, a new office, and other fixes.
“We’ve done a pretty impressive job on an old building,” McIntosh said. “I think people will like it and enjoy their stay, as much as you can enjoy a stay in a shelter. We also want to show them we respect them by having a nice place and in turn have the place respected.”
However, the renovations have reduced the capacity from 13 beds to 10, although McIntosh said they may be able to squeeze other people in overnight during extreme cold.
She said they are still working out the rules but residents will not be able to stay all winter. They are looking at a rotation depending on demand, although she has no doubt the beds will all be filled.
“There will be rules and accountability and consequences for those who can’t follow the rules,” she said, adding she is open to talking to neighbouring businesses or anyone else who might be impacted or has concerns.
They are also thinking about having an open house so the community can see how the shelter operates.
She said the new model will be more focused on supportive housing and finding people long-term accommodation.
“It would be lovely if at the end of our contract there was nobody there. That’s the objective, getting people housed and secure so they can move on in life.”
Following the closure of the shelter in March, the community services housing team was able to find long-term housing for a few people. Others moved to an encampment behind the Chevron station until the owner asked them to move.
Subsequently, people stayed behind the recreation complex, where McIntosh said they were “out of sight, out of mind” but conditions were poor. In addition, the camp was torn apart by bears three times. She expects some people who were staying there will be clients at the new shelter.
McIntosh also said they have had strong community support with businesses providing materials and covering costs.