CHILLIWACK (NEWS 1130) – No one will be turned away. That’s what the operator of a couple of shelters in Chilliwack is saying as the Fraser Valley faces a particularly cold week.
Bill Raddatz is executive director of Ruth and Naomi’s Mission. He says there is a waiting list for a shelter that guarantees each person a bed for four months, while an emergency shelter has been near capacity.
“We still had people last night sleeping in the streets on Yale Road, which is the main downtown core. It’s only a block away from where we are. Sadly enough, it’s their choice to do that. But there is room here for them.”
Raddatz says there is room for about 35 people at the emergency shelter. “We’ve been averaging generally, 20 a night since December … But last night, we had 28, which was probably one of the highest ones since Dec. 1.”
He says if they get even more people coming through their doors, they will work out how to adequately staff the shelter.
“We would try to get some people in — even if they have to work overtime, and we pay them accordingly — we would do that,” he added.
Raddatz thinks there has been an increase in homelessness in Chilliwack over the last couple of years. He says they can manage a week or so of frigid temperatures.
“But last winter and the winter before seemed to be prolonged — the winter that never ended is the way it seemed here. People did perish and there were issues and fires, et cetera. We’re hoping none of that will happen.”
Raddatz says the shelters could use donations of scarves, mittens, and toques.
The cold snap has triggered emergency responses other cities, including Vancouver and Surrey, where extra shelter spaces and warming centres have opened for those looking for a break from the frigid temperatures.