UPDATE: Warm zone opens for Hope’s homeless population

Two men facing homelessness said they spend 50 hours per week outdoors

People facing homelessness in Hope now have a warm place to be during the day.

The Thunderbird Motel already houses a winter weather shelter during the night. It will now be open 24 hours a day after BC Housing money was granted to the Hope and Area Transition Society.

Gerry Dyble, executive director, said not having a warm place during daytime hours was an oversight on the part of the society. She made a phone call to BC Housing last week to inform them of the need in the community.

“In the urban centres there are other places where folks can go during the day, and we don’t have that. It’s something that we need to build into our extreme weather program in the future, however in the meantime, for this year, we need to be having a warm zone,” she told BC Housing.

The approval came quickly, within one day BC Housing said they were granting the society the money needed to open a warm zone.

Last week, two men who use the extreme weather program said they spend up to 50 hours per week outdoors. As a result, they said they experience constant head colds, burning extremities and hypothermia.

“Our biggest issue is, to tell you the truth, the time we’re not allowed in (the weather shelter),” Dave Phelps said at the time.

“No matter what the weather is, doesn’t matter if its snowing, raining, freezing rain, doesn’t matter what the weather is. You feel sick, you feel frozen.”

Phelps and friend Andrew Michael Wallace said being outside for extended periods of time takes an emotional toll as well.

“It seems like nobody cares, we’re nothing to them. Because if we were, something would be done about it,” Phelps said.

Dyble did not disclose the amount provided by BC Housing, but said it will pay for one extra staff position which will be filled by current extreme weather employees.

It will also be put towards food served in the warm zone, transportation to and from the Thunderbird Motel and operating costs including heat and electricity. HATS is leasing the building at 63030 Flood Hope Road.

The warm zone will be open only when extreme weather is called. The society can call for extreme weather between November and Mar. 31 when the emergency shelter is full, when temperatures reach zero or below, when there is snow accumulation and when the weather becomes a threat to the life and health of people who are homeless.

Extreme weather is currently called and Dyble expects it could remain in place until the official end Mar. 31.

For next year, Dyble said the plan is for a 24-hour warm zone to be built into the extreme weather program.

The amount of homeless people in the Fraser Valley is the highest its ever been. A 2017 Fraser Valley Regional District report surveyed 36 people in Hope and six in Boston Bar who identified as homeless. Hope also had the highest proportion of homeless people identifying as Aboriginal in the Fraser Valley.

 

The Thunderbird Motel project at 63030 Flood Hope Road houses a shelter, transitional housing and now a warm zone for people who are homeless to go during the day. (Emelie Peacock photo)

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