About Inn From The Cold

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Looks like we'll be able to open again soon

Weather forecast is calling for a change to colder weather for the next couple of days, so it looks like we'll open the shelter tomorrow night (Wed night) and likely stay open for 2 or 3 nights.  

One complication is that there's a blood donor clinic at St Alban Thursday and Friday this week.  They leave their equipment set up overnight, so we'll have to workaround them.   Makes for a great time to come by the shelter, to give blood or to give some time to volunteer.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Plan to Make Homelessness history

Today's New York Times had an interesting article recently entitled "A Plan to make Homelessness History" http://nyti.ms/dKCyna   Worth a read.  It refers to a program in the US called "100,000 Homes" which has a goal of placing 100,000 chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing by July 2013.  They started less than 6 months ago and have placed almost 7,000 already, on track for 100,000 by 2013.  The article reports that when cities decide to make a concerted effort to reduce homelessness, they succeed.  

Large cities like New York and LA are on board as are smaller ones like Norfolk VA (population 230,000) and Wichita Kansas, that aren't much bigger than Richmond.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Very cold today, but still not quite enough to open. Hoping for tomorrow.

Today's combination of rain, wind and low temps made for very miserable weather.  I was out in it for a few hours today -- running errands on my bike and walking -- and it definitely felt bitterly cold, but unfortunately, to declare an Extreme Weather Alert we can't rely on how cold it feels, we have to base it on information available from weather agencies.  We mainly use three sources: Environment Canada, the Weather Network (localized for Richmond) and a private forecasting service the city has under contract for the winter that provides us with a customized forecast for Richmond daily.  None are predicting temperatures to go below freezing tonight, so we're not opening.

While I was out doing my errands, I bumped into a couple men near one of the bottle depots who have stayed at the shelter and I told them we wouldn't be open tonight, but possibly tomorrow. One had lost the gloves we'd given him a couple weeks ago, so I went over to St Alban to get him another pair and brought back a bag full of gloves, scarves, toques in case I ran into more people who could use them. Sure enough, when I returned, there were two women hanging around outside the depot -- neither of whom I'd met before. They were friends of the men who'd stayed with us (both men had now vanished).  One woman  gratefully accepted a scarf, toque and gloves -- she was only wearing a hooded coat for protection from the weather -- and told me she'd be spending the night with her sister.   The other women had stayed at the shelter last year, but had a place to live now in Vancouver. 

I eventually caught up with the two guys who've been staying with us, just across the street from the depot, at a place they often spend the night called "the concrete jungle."  It's fairly well protected from the elements -- concrete roof,  concrete on three sides and big garbage bins on the fourth side -- they had a small fire going and they had large duvets nearby that we'd handed out when they last left.   The gloves fit and when I left, they looked like they'll be okay for another night out in the cold.

Hopefully, we'll open tomorrow night.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Still not quite cold enough to open

The weather has been flirting with sub-zero recently, but not quite enough  to declare an extreme weather alert.  We monitor the various weather forecasts at least daily and update our hotline accordingly.

In the meantime, activities at and around the shelter continue.   Last night was the third and final gift bag decorating session, held in the lounge at St Alban.   The bags have made their appearance at two venues so far and this Sunday will be at St Joseph The Worker parish.   They've help raise hundreds of dollars so far.  We've also added pictures of the bags to the "Donate" portion of the website, allowing people to receive these special thank-yous if  they donate in person at the shelter.  If anyone would like to host a small fundraising session, based on these bags, just reply back to this email.  You'll get a small kit with a set of bags, a couple signs to post and a sheet to record names for tax receipts.  

People have also been working in the background gathering donations of goods or money from organizations (such as Starbucks) and co-workers (such as Richmond Public Health, where a siimple note resulted in a coffee can full of cash donations).   

We've also taken the opportunity to do some training.  Last Saturday, five staff and volunteers attended a Level 1 Foodsafe course at Gilmore United.   Gilmore United host another weekly community meal here in Richmond and they delivered the course to their own volunteers, opening up a few spaces for us.    And this  past Monday evening, Warren from our shelter committee provided basic  first aid training to our overnight staff.  He geared the trianing specifically to the types of situations we are most likely to encounter.    Both courses were excellent.

People have been asking about what's happening at the shelter for Christmas.  Answer: if there's an extreme weather alert, we'll be open.  Otherwise, we won't be open.  We have been accumulating some small gifts for our guests (scarfs, underwear, sox) in anticipation that we might open.  (And Barry has a frozen turkey ready).    If we don't open right at Christmas, we'll have the turkey and give the gifts at the next available opportunity.    If anyone would like to source or offer up some small gift items (lighters, chocolate, etc) reply back and we'll arrange drop off or pickup.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Inn From The Cold -- closing until the cold weather returns

The Shelter will be closed until further notice.  We're into a warm spell and today the city deactivated its extreme weather alert, so the posters have come down, the sign in front of the church has been cleared off, the food put away, etc.

During this last activation period, we were open two nights and welcomed 9 different guests: 5 the first night and 7 last night.    All were familiar faces from the first activation period.   We handed out the "comfort coats" Cecilia received from the organization in White Rock (partially sponsored by the Knights of Columbus).  These are amazing coats -- very roomy and warm parkas that convert into a sleeping bags by attaching the carrying bag made of the same parka material.  Very practical and will really help people get through the cold spells that the shelter isn't open.   We handed out two pairs of great boots donated by Turning Point Recovery (the group who attempted to open a second recovery facility in Richmond but weren't allowed).

We offered up Christmas cards to people to send off, but as far as I know, no one took advantage of it.   Some people have lost contact with their loved ones (including a couple who really want to reconnect, but don't have an address).   Others didn't seem to be in the frame of mind.  They know the cards are available and some may still take advantage of them.

The shelter hotline we set up is a hit (phone # 604-367-0885). Several folks have access to phones and call to check status.  

Thanks to Richard, Stella, Vic, Jan, Trevor, John, Gerry, Gracey, Margaret, Dianne, Ofra, Norm, Joan, Christi, Jean, Cecilia, Janet, Kay, Harry, June, Jennifer for coming out to prepare and serve meals on very short notice, to set up the mats, to put up the sign in front of the church, to decorate gift bags, to staff the booth at the Fair Trade Fair and to all those who helped behind the scenes and offered to come in but the shelter didn't open during your shift.  And all this in the last 4 days.  You are all a very special group of people. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Last minute decision to open the shelter tonight

Like our guests, the shelter is at the mercy of the weather. In our case, the shelter only opens for the night when the city of Richmond issues an Extreme Weather Alert. The decision to issue the alert is made at 10 a.m. each day and is based on the weather forecast for that night. There are four criteria that can activate an alert, including the temperature at -2 or less. Yesterday (Friday), at 10 a.m. the forecast was for a low of zero overnight. So no alert was issued. However, as night fell, the temperature plummeted and when I woke up this morning, frost covered the ground and the temperature was -3. So, the forecast was wrong and several people had to spend a very cold night.

This morning, the forecast was also for zero degrees, so again at 10 no alert issued. However, by 3 pm, the forecast for overnight temperature had been modified to -2, so we decided to open. Fortunately, the Richmond Extreme Weather official had given me her cell phone number for just this purpose so I was able to reach her (in the middle of her putting up Christmas lights on her home) and within minutes the official alert had been issued to the RCMP, ambulance services etc.

Next, we had to call in staff and volunteers and more importantly get the word out to the homeless in the area that the shelter would be open. Jan and I drove around to a few known locations including 3 bottle depots where we posted signs and in the process met up with three people who had stayed at the shelter during the last cold snap, and gave them the news directly. Word spread and four people were there in time to enjoy a nice spaghetti dinner, including one with the word that two more were on their way.

All's well that ends well.

Five volunteers helped open the shelter, then cooked up a fine spaghetti dinner

Gift of Warmth

Thursday, an enthusiastic crew decorated gift bags with ribbon, used wrapping paper, used Christmas cards, sparkles and glitter.   Net proceeds will give warmth to a person who is homeless."  The bags come in three sizes and are given to those who make a donation of $10, 15, or 25 to the Shelter.  Each bag comes with an Inn From The Cold tag that reads: " Thanks for your Gift of Warmth.  A charitable receipt is also provided.

The bags made their debut at today's  Fair Trade Fair at St Alban.  Shelter volunteers were on hand to answer questions. The bags proved to be very popular, raising over $250 for the shelter.

There are still some bags available, and another bag decorating evening is planned.  If anyone would like to offer the bags to friends, family or at an event or meeting, just contact us at InnFromTheColdRichmond@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Decorating gift bags tonight (Thursday 2 Dec at St Alban)

Message from Cecilia, who is our Committee co-chair, head of food committee and helping with fundraising:

"It is a busy time of year but there may be a few of you (at least 10) I hope who would be able to come out tonight, Dec 2nd , at 7 pm to decorate dollar store gift bags with ribbon, used wrapping paper, used Christmas cards, sparkles, glitter, etc (according to each creative imagination).

We would like to offer these to persons who would give a donation of $10, 15, or 25 to the Shelter fund raiser. I will purchase small, medium and large bags from the dollar store.

Please bring scissors, glue, ribbon, decorating essentials, etc

Does someone know the manager at the Richmond Mall whom I would contact to ask if we could set up a table there. Others possibilities are at churches, community centers, friends, etc.

Victor will make us a tag with
Inn from the Cold
Richmond Extreme Weather Shelter on one side

and on the other
Thanks for your "Gift of Warmth"
Net proceeds will give warmth
to a person who is homeless

See you at St Albans at 7 pm"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gearing up to open again-- maybe Friday night??

The weather has been relatively mild recently (with some big dumps of rain) but the forecasts are saying temperatures will dip below zero on the weekend. As always, we'll make a final decision each morning by 10 a.m. to open or not. But we try to make the decision the evening before to allow time to mobilize the volunteers and staff.

At last night's community meal at St Alban, four of our shelter guests from last week were in attendance. They are hoping for cooler weather so we can open. Hugh, one of our overnight shelter staff also volunteers at the community meal and he noted that the footwear of these four guys was really lacking, so he's taking the initiative to find them good boots.

If anyone has a lead on where we can get free or very discounted boots for some needy people, please let us know.