About Inn From The Cold

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shelter closed tonight after 8 nights

The shelter is closed tonight and will likely remain closed until further notice. We'll open again once another weather alert is issued (various criteria are used to determine this: -2 C or heavy snow or very windy and sub zero etc). Seven shelters were closed last night across the lower mainland, and most will likely be closed tonight.

Eight people last night, including 1 new man.

Weather has warmed up and the snowperson one of the guests made on the lawn is melting.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sharing the space and sweets with the NDP and sweet sounds in the morning

We will open tonight. Iffy for tomorrow. Still looking for volunteers for breakfast tomorrow morning. Call Norm if available. Note that new people are welcome, and you'll be trained on the job.

Tonight we'll be sharing the space with a large NDP meeting who will be in the main hall from 5-10. They are only serving desserts so the kitchen and lounge are available.

All men last night, the one young woman who's been staying there for the last few days didn't return, but I learned this morning that she is safe and sound.

Jean M, who lives just steps away from the shelter, comes by almost every evening and morning to spend time chatting with the guests. Her specialty is waking them up gently. This morning, she brought in her flute and piccolo and they were gently roused by those sweet sounds -- another magical moment.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Number of guests down on cheque day

Nine people Wed night, seven last night, seven so far tonight.  Drop in numbers likely due to yesterday being "cheque day", when people on social assistance receive their monthly cheques, opening up more options for them.     Our guests continue to show their gratitude.  Each of the last two evenings, someone's arrived early and helped set up the mats and chairs, another has offered to paint the shed that's used to lock up their bikes and carts and tonight one fellow brought in a big bag of chips for everyone.  Cribbage has become a popular evening activity -- one man made a crib board out of cardboard Wednesday night, using pushpins as markers -- it looks amazing and we'll keep it, and we now also have a regular wooden board with pegs.  Listening to hockey on the radio, reading the paper, having someone there just to talk to are also real treats.

Hand made cribbage board out of shoe box.

The food has been amazing thanks to over 30 different volunteers showing up early in the morning, staying late at night or cooking up food at home and bringing it in.

With this warming trend, we expect to close in the next day or so.   When we do, we'll send our guests off with a full belly, and they'll return to the places they normally spend the night: tents in parks, abandoned buildings, campers, under bridges.  I've visited a some of these places in the past few days and the thought of these fine people we've come to know sleeping in these hovels brought me to tears.

We'll decide tomorrow (Friday) morning at 7 whether or not the weather conditions allow us to open up another night.   

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Community Responds to the call for donations

Nine people last night, ten the previous.   One woman each of the two nights.

Full slate of volunteers now lined up for the kitchen till Thursday morning (thanks!), so in good shape for next couple days.   In Richmond, we make a decision to open on a day-to-day basis, but looking ahead, Friday seems like it's going to be warming up.  Four of the Lower Mainland shelters have already said they are closing Friday, but most are continuing day-to-day.  And one shelter opened today for the first time (they didn't open at all last year).

The food continues to be a big hit.  The atmosphere in the shelter last night was wonderful -- socializing, laughter, people gathered around a giant chess board Norm had set up.

Tonight, we have the weekly St Alban Community Meal at 5 and we have encouraged all guests to attend that. It'll be nice to get into a warm place before the shelter opens.

We've had a great response from the community (there was an article on the front page of last Friday's Richmond News, including a photo of our training session) and a steady stream of warm clothing is coming through the front door.   We also purchased things like new underwear, socks, long underwear and good winter gloves.   We open up our clothing supply to the guests each morning before they leave --  they are delighted with the selection of donated jackets, toques, scarves etc and the new clothes are a special treat.

Many people brought donations of clothing for the homeless.  Thank you, Richmond

We've also had lots of food donated, to the extent that we're suggesting everyone take their food to the foodbank.  Our cupboards, fridge and feezer are full!

We've had a few glitches, which is expected.  For example, last night as I was leaving,  my key ring collapsed spilling my shelter keys  to the ground. I thought I'd picked them all up, but it was cold and dark and I didn't realize till I arrived this morning that I was missing one of them.    I looked outside but couldn't find it.   A few hours later, one of the men who'd stayed with us Sat. night walked through the door with a homeless friend, asking if we had any clothes for his friend.    I gladly obliged.  Then he said: "did anyone lose this key?"  Good things are happening.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The first couple of nights

The shelter opened Friday night and will remain open until we get some warm weather: probably Wednesday or later.   We welcomed 3 guests Friday night and 4 last night.   As word of the opening spreads, we expect this number to increase.   Our guests are very grateful for the hot meals, hospitality, new clothes and a warm place to sleep.    We have extended our opening hours -- it's now open from 7 pm to 8 am (rather than closing at 7 am) so it's a little warmer when they venture out and a little nearer to the time when warm public places like the library open up.

The cold weather hit us a little early this year, but thanks to your efforts  we were ready.    The community at large is also responding -- we've received donations of clothing and food and our supplies are in good shape for the next while.

A big thanks to all of you for your kindness and dedication. You are making a difference in the lives of some very fine people.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Opening Night at the Shelter

We opened our doors at 7 pm but already there were a few people who arrived early.  We had several volunteers this first night, including a few from last year which was great.   A great meal of hearty soup, buns, spaghetti and salad was served up.  

Only three guests this first night, but it will get busier as the word spreads and the temperature drops.

We had a big snowfall overnight and the background image for this website was taken just before dawn on the Saturday morning.  And this image shows the footprints and bicycle tracks left behind by the three guests as they left around 8 a.m.

Special thanks to Zac and Nicole, who showed up to lend a hand.  Both are on the Extreme Weather Shelter Committee (Zac's the volunteer coordinator, Nicole does liaison with the parish and a key member of the committee who hired staff this year).   Both are excellent people who kindly passed on their wisdom from last year and, sadly,  they are moving to Vancouver Island in a few short days.  You will be missed!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Extreme Weather Alert issued. Outreach begins.

Lennie from Salvation Army's Richmond House Emergency Shelter calls and says he'd like to open up.  I agree.  Lennie calls Richmond Emergency services, who issue the official alert by 10 a.m., emailing, faxing and phoning dozens of agencies in Richmond and the Lower Mainland.

Bottle depot.  Poster visible in bottom right corner of window.
Zac and I head out to do some outreach, trying to spread the word that the shelter is open for the first time this season.  We visit two bottle depots (No 2 and Blundell and near Save On Foods - No 3 and Westminster Hwy). Collecting bottles is a popular source of cash for the homeless.  Neither have the shelter poster displayed, but both agree to post the ones we've brought with us.  

Next we check the library, a popular spot to stay warm, to read and use the internet. I'm delighted to see the poster is already in the windows of the main door.

Library at Brighouse - Extreme Weather Shelter poster in window
Finally, we check the three "secret places" Ben showed Zac the night before.  Each has a street name: "underground", "cubby holes", "concrete jungle".  They are places where you can spend a few hours partially protected from the weather, and partially hidden from sight.   Signs of habitation at the "underground" -- a shopping cart, some cardboard used as a mattress.   Cubby Holes also has some belongings, but no people.   Finally, at Concrete Jungle, we we find Ben and CB, about to be hustled away by a security guard.  They are very pleased to hear the shelter will open tonight, we shake hands and bid them farewell.  Only Ben shows up at the shelter that night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Freezing Weather forecast

It's Thursday evening, time for our weekly Extreme Weather Committee meeting.  Freezing weather is forecast and the main topic in tonight's meeting is readiness to open.  While we are meeting, a homeless man comes to the door, "Ben", hoping the shelter is open tonight. Zac, our volunteer coordinator knows him from last year and learns there are up to eight homeless people in the vicinity hoping the shelter's open.   He takes a thermos of hot chocolate and goes with Ben to take the hot drink to his buddies.

NOTE: all names of homeless people are pseudonyms.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Shelter Training

Saturday, Nov 13, sixty volunteers, staff and committee members attended a shelter training session with Peter Fedos from Hyland House emergency shelter in Surrey.  Peter drew on his years of experience in shelters as well as the experience of people in the room.    

Peter  also led us in an exercise about private space and boundaries.   

The training session was held in the main hall of St Alban, the same space where the guests have their meals and bed down when the shelter is open.  No one had any idea the shelter would be open 6 days later.