Skip to content

Extreme weather shelter up and running in Gibsons

In Sechelt, the Upper Deck shelter expansion is complete, bringing the total of permanent shelter beds to 35. But, because of staffing shortages, an additional 10 extreme weather shelter beds aren't yet available.
St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church in Gibsons.

For the second straight year, an emergency cold-weather shelter has opened in Gibsons in November. 

The 10-bed temporary shelter, operated by the Salvation Army, is open nightly from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. at St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church at 659 North Road and has been operating since Nov. 2. 

Laundry services are being installed at the church and a shower is available at the bottom level of the Arts Building at 464 South Fletcher Road. That space, known as the Marine Room, will also serve as a daytime warming centre during extreme winter weather. 

So far, “the demand has not been high and we have extra spaces if people are in need of a warm, dry location,” Salvation Army Ministry Director Darrell Pilgrim, told Coast Reporter.

He also thanked the St. Bart’s congregation and volunteers, Town of Gibsons and BC Housing “for helping us provide this needed resource in our community.”

Town seeks shelter consistency

The Gibsons cold-weather shelter opened the same time last year at the Salvation Army site at 682 Gibsons Way, which also had a maximum capacity of 10 people. Last year the shelter averaged six people per night. 

A two-month delay occurred the winter prior, with a shelter not opening its doors at the Gibsons Way location until mid-January 2021, due in part to a fire that damaged the building, and because of staffing shortages.

Cold-weather shelters typically open in November in B.C.

Pilgrim said the shelter has moved to St. Bart’s from the Salvation Army location because it’s a roomier space and because hosting the shelter at the Gibsons Way site created “timing and space concerns” for the nonprofit’s daily meal recovery and food bank programs. 

In 2021 Gibsons was approved for a $190,000 grant through the Strengthening Communities’ Services Program as part of the Safe Restart funding envelope, with money directed towards securing a multi-year commitment on location, funding and operator for a cold-weather shelter.

Pilgrim said the Salvation Army is “committed to operating an extreme weather shelter for as long as it is needed.”

Funding, however, can’t be guaranteed from one year to the next, according to Mayor Silas White – who finished an outreach coordinator contract with the Town in July through the Strengthening Communities grant. That’s because BC Housing doesn’t make multi-year funding commitments for its winter shelter program.

The town is “on their radar” for yearly funding support though, because of its “demonstrable need for a winter shelter.”

Additionally, the Town’s website says that “a better understanding of BC Housing’s shelter funding process has been gained, which will enable Gibsons to consistently open a winter shelter each year.”

Upper Deck expansion complete

After more than a year's delay, renovations are complete at the BC Housing-owned Upper Deck shelter at 5653 Wharf Ave. in Sechelt, bringing the total of permanent shelter beds to 35.

BC Housing has also made funding available for 10 extreme weather shelter beds but they aren’t available yet because of a staffing shortage.

A BC Housing spokesperson said the operator, RainCity Housing, is “working hard” to find staff but “recruitment has been a challenge,” as it's been with operators throughout the province. "We are in ongoing and regular discussions with providers about how we can work together to better support frontline services for people experiencing homelessness.”

The goal for the organization is to “move people from shelters to longer-term housing, which is why we have opened 118 affordable homes on the Sunshine Coast since 2017, with a further 300 units on the way.”

BC Housing completed its lease of the Royal Reach Motel last year. The organization had leased the space as emergency housing in response to COVID-19. “All residents were successfully rehoused prior to closure,” according to the spokesperson. 

The number of unhoused people has nearly doubled since 2018 to 84 from 57, according to a 2020 homeless count for Sechelt, Gibsons and Roberts Creek.

There are no designated emergency shelter beds in Pender Harbour and Egmont.

BC Housing lists all shelters on a dedicated website directory