About Inn From The Cold

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shelter closing till next time

We're closing tonight now that milder weather has returned. Ten guests last night. One fellow found a permanent shelter at the Salvation Army in Langley this morning before he left and there are spaces elsewhere available.

 It was a good run of six nights with lots of guests each night, so plenty of meals to cook, lunches to pack, dishes to wash and mats and blankets to haul away. Our guests are very grateful for the service we provide and if you didn't hear it from them personally, I'm passing it on to you now. Yes, even the guy who occasionally barks at us for having salt in the oatmeal or wondering where his second helping of french toast is (as happened this morning) he eventually says thanks respectfully and genuinely.

Till next time, thanks from me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Shelter supporters thanked

Here's a letter to the editor written by one of our shelter volunteers and published in Richmond News on January 9th.   Volunteer "E" should also be thanked as she was the person who took the initiative both times to approach Canadian Tire and ask for a donation.  The first time, we needed a new toaster and this time a new griddle as I dropped the one we'd been using and broke it.   

Shelter supporters thanked

The Editor,
Today is the second time the Canadian Tire store located in the Coppersmith Plaza on Steveston Highway in Richmond contributed to the St. Alban Extreme Weather Shelter. The donation of cooking equipment for preparing breakfast makes it easier for shelter staff and volunteers to provide nourishment for those citizens who are vulnerable to homelessness.
We are very appreciative of this generous gesture to support the shelter, which also provides warm clothing and a warm place to sleep during the cold winter nights.
Thank you to the good Samaritans at Canadian Tire and to the other merchants who support the shelter.
E. Michaud, On behalf of Inn From The Cold at St. Alban Richmond

Read more:http://www.richmond-news.com/news/Shelter+supporters+thanked/7794804/story.html#ixzz2I4zfHo5T

Temperatures up, shelter numbers down

Weather's milder today but we'll open again tonight. Only seven guests stayed the night, down from twelve the previous night, a confirmation from the street that the weather outside is more tolerable. We had 3 more join us for dinner only and two for breakfast only.

At the St Alban drop-in centre yesterday daytime, we also had a good turnout: 10 people, so St Alban is a very popular spot these days.

Last evening, the lounge was in use by a regular weekly meeting and the hall was booked for a strata AGM, so we served dinner upstairs in the drop-in centre and carried the food from the kitchen out the back door, around the building and up the back stairs. Grace kept it simple for easy transportation: chili con carne, veggies and homemade corn bread muffins.

Tonight we have the weekly Community Meal at St Alban, serving approx. 150 people, and we usually gain a guest or two who decide to bunk down with us after a big meal.

Tomorrow night looks borderline for opening. I"m guessing we'll close but we'll decide in the morning.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Update from the midst of a January cold snap

It seems Ontario has decided so export some of their winter weather this way, as we've had sub-zero temperatures for three nights (down to -5 last night)  while my hometown of London, Ontario was at +12 yesterday.

Eleven guests spent the night with us last night, including one woman with her partner, plus two more who dropped in for a while: "Roy" who walked over with "Bud" , wanting to make sure his friend made it safely to the shelter and a fellow who didn't plan to stay with us, but asked if he could stay for a meal.   "Roy" isn't housed, but he prefers to bunker down in his own corner of the world -- it used to be in a washroom, but now a stairwell in a building with a friendly landlord who allows him to spend his nights there.     All he wanted was a pair of socks ("white, please") and off he went.  

In addition to a near-full house of guests, our supporting cast brought the total to over twenty people who gathered together for the evening: volunteers Richard, Jiff and Dave  prepared a fantastic meal under Grace's guidance (shepherd's pie -- that one guest said could be on the menu in any restaurant -- he had three platefuls of it, plus bread pudding made with blueberries and topped with custard).  Jean and  Dianne dropped by to socialize and Dianne also brings her nursing skills into practice.  Rounding things out were staffers Hugh and Anneliese (who brought her dog Luna) and me.  The atmosphere was warm and cordial and it felt good to be there.

Many of our guests know each other from the street, and this generally contributes to the pleasant ambiance (although they aren't all best buddies).  We have a few guests who are new  to the shelter this year (and some new to being homeless) and all have found their comfort zone, which is great to see.

Earlier in the day, a group of girl guides dropped off about thirty pairs of jeans they'd collected for the shelter.    This is the second year in a row they've come by with gifts -- last year they made mittens and delivered them.   When they asked what they could do this year, I suggested a used jean drive as our guests are always looking for jeans -- their pants often get soiled and wet and jeans are hard to dry, but it's the pants of choice for most folks, including people who are homeless, so that's what we get them.  The guides created display boxes and placed them at local community centres, then rounded them up and brought them in.

I toured the girls around, showed them the sleeping/dining hall, the mats and pillows and blankets and the kitchen, explained what we do, who comes to the shelter, how much the jeans will be appreciated by our guests -- especially knowing they were collected by a group of girl guides.  It is so wonderful when children show they care through these purposeful acts of kindness.  And by placing boxes in community centres, it spreads the word that we have many people in need in our community.  Dave and I labelled all the jeans with sizes while most of our guests crowded around for a pair.  Everyone found a pair that fit them.

We also took down the Christmas tree down (in about a tenth of the time it took to put it up), persuaded it back into its box and hauled it over to its storage place in the back of the church.  Christmas and New Year's isn't a great time of year for many of our guests, many of whom are estranged from their families, so for them it's a time to get back to a more normal season.  One of our new guests saw his two daughters over Christmas -- first time in fifteen years -- and he was very grateful for that.  He's been living out of his car for the last while after his business collapsed (and another guest, who's 67, is living out of his van) and will be looking for work starting tomorrow.  He's one of those people who has a positive outlook on life and he's hopeful that 2013 will be better than last year.

And that sums up my simple wish for all of our guests -- that this year will be better than last.   You might think that someone who spent 2012 homeless would have a good chance of having a better year this year (what could be a worse?)  but change is hard, as anyone who sets New Year's resolutions will attest and especially hard for someone stuck in a lifestyle that involves homelessness.  As a person who is homeless and destitute, even if you do decide to make a change, how do you make it happen?  How do find a job or a home or reunite with family, when you are starting with so little?  How to you keep hopeful?

I wish I had the answers.   For now, I hope our shelter is providing some respite, some nourishment, some comfort and rest, some companionship, some love, some hope that things can and will get better.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Early season stats

A few stats from the season so far: we've been open 11 nights,with as many as 11 guests in one night. We've hosted 18 different guests this year, including six who have never stayed at our shelter before, at least two of whom have never stayed in any shelter before. In total, 57 bednights, representing 171 meals prepared and served with care, thanks to our wonderful volunteers.