Extreme weather shelter questions answered

Just because you don’t have a roof over your head doesn’t mean you don’t have a place to call home.

Just because you don’t have a roof over your head doesn’t mean you don’t have a place to call home.

That’s what Cindy Warren, former chair of the Homeless Aid Committee and program manager for the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association, told a public meeting called to discuss the use of part of the Rialto Manor on First Street in Ladysmith as an Emergency Weather Response (EWR) centre.

“The people who live here, it’s their home,” she said of the homeless. “It may not seem so to us, but it is.”

And the consensus in the room was the homeless are residents, too, and deserve a place to go when things get really bad out on the streets, or in our forested areas, or…

The plan is to convert storage space on the ground floor of the Rialto to a space that would accommodate up to 10 homeless people on inclement nights between Nov. 1 and March 31. There would also be kitchen facilities to provide a warm meal.

Shannon Wilson, executive director of the Ladysmith Resources Centre, which is partnering with BC Housing on the project, said no tenants of the Rialto Manor will be displaced by the EWR project, because it will be located in unrented storage space on the ground floor of the building.

Last year 78 extreme weather days were declared in Ladysmith and about 178 people were offered shelter. The triggering weather conditions include: temperatures below 2 degrees; heavy snow; heavy rain; or a combination of wind and rain that results in a dangerous chill factor.

Funding for operation of the shelter will be provided by BC Housing, said non-profit portfolio manager Heidi Hartman. Opening an EWR here would bring to 10 the total number on the Island.

Comments and observations from the July 18 meeting will be presented to the Town of Ladysmith council, which is being asked to issue a temporary, three-year use permit for the facility at the Rialto.