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Temporary homeless shelter opens its doors at New West high school

Last Updated May 11, 2020 at 6:32 pm PDT


An emergency response centre has been set up to house homeless people at a New Westminster high school

The centre has a capacity for 40 people, 16 moved in Monday

People experiencing homelessness are living in situations where the virus could spread quickly

NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) — In the latest move to help the disadvantaged and homeless in New Westminster, a converted high school gym is now a temporary shelter during the pandemic.

Doors opened Monday to the temporary emergency response centre at New Westminster Secondary School’s Massey Complex, which will allow 40 people some much-needed shelter.

The temporary complex is the brainchild of BC Housing, Fraser Health, the New West School District, Lookout Housing and Health Society, as well as the city.

“People with housing challenges, homelessness, or living in places like shelters now have a place to go if they start to display respiratory symptoms that could potentially be COVID-19,” says Dr. Martin Lavoie, the chief medical health officer for the Fraser Health Authority.

People experiencing homelessness are living in situations where the virus could spread quickly, according to a release.

“It helps, actually, in the overall situation to ensure that we have a specific place to take care of people who are displaying those symptoms and ensuring that they’re taken care of in a safe manner to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to people around them,” he says.

Fraser Health has been slowly screening people who were already staying at an extreme weather centre in the city – part of the gradual process of moving individuals into their new temporary spots.

Sixteen people were slated to move in on the first day and will be able to practise physical distancing.

At least two trained staff members will be at the site 24/7.

A deal between the school district and BC Housing should keep the facility in use until at least the end of June.

For now, Lavoie says there isn’t any concern the centre will draw people from neighbouring cities.

“I would not speculate on that, but what I would say is this is a great collaboration between some great partners, and they’ve worked together to make sure this is available. Typically we see [services] like this for the local population,” Lavoie says.

Fraser Health is in charge of admitting people to the shelter and will direct people to another isolation centre if they display symptoms.

Admissions will be done gradually to ensure everyone’s safety, which is why only 16 people were admitted Monday.