Seasons House has been providing support since 2008 for people experiencing homelessness in Quesnel. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Seasons House has been providing support since 2008 for people experiencing homelessness in Quesnel. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Quesnel homeless shelter keeps busy during cold snap

More extreme weather response beds needed says executive director

The Quesnel Shelter and Support Society is going above and beyond to protect vulnerable populations from dangerously cold temperatures that have gripped the region.

Extreme cold warnings had been in place for the past several days as a very cold air mass combined with moderate winds gave wind chill values near minus 40 or lower.

At Seasons House where extreme weather response shelter spaces are available no one was being turned away.

“In the winter months BC Housing funds us for an additional 15 beds bringing our capacity up to 25,” said executive director Melanie MacDonald.

“However, we have more people in the community experiencing homelessness than that capacity allows for.”

A one-day homeless count in March 2020 identified 121 individuals experiencing homelessness in Quesnel.

Not everyone was likely identified, and MacDonald believes that number has since increased.

Before an extreme cold warning was lifted mid-Wednesday, Dec. 29, MacDonald estimated they had been averaging ten people above capacity.

Read More: Extreme cold warning reissued

“We are in conversations with BC Housing about the need for another warming space in the community, but for the meantime, we’re just keeping our doors open and allowing extra folks in over that 25,” she said.

In previous years, there have been upwards of 45 people in the shelter on cold winter days.

While the pandemic poses some concern in the facility without adequate space, MacDonald said the risk of freezing to death from the elements is much greater and imminent than the current COVID-19 risk.

“We are doing the best we can in a rather difficult situation,” she said, adding they are on top of their sanitization processes and ask that people wear face masks and practice physical distancing when possible.

Generous support from the community resulted in every individual at Seasons House being provided with a gift this holiday season and special events leading up to Christmas, such as wreath making and crafts, for tenants at Bridges Supportive Housing.

As 2021 draws to a close, MacDonald said she feels a bit hopeful for the new year, knowing that BC Housing is in conversation with another organization to provide additional weather response spaces.

“I think that would ease the pressure that our organization feels for sure,” she added.

“Shelter is not a solution for any individual–housing is, and looking to the future, I do hope to see additional housing and supportive housing in the community and across the province for this population.”

Donations of warm winter clothing such as gloves, toques and hand warmers are always welcome.

Read More: Operating hours increased this winter at Coalition of Substance Users of the North

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