Many new faces during first month of Nanaimo's extreme weather shelter

By Spencer Sterritt
December 7, 2017 - 5:25pm Updated: December 7, 2017 - 6:27pm

In its first month, the extreme weather shelter in Nanaimo was forced to turn away roughly 20 people, which is in line with what staff expected.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — In the first 30 days of their season, the situation wasn't status quo at the extreme weather shelter in Nanaimo.

Shelter coordinator Kevan Griffith told NanaimoNewsNOW they expected to be at their 30-bed capacity most nights, but they didn't expect to see so many unfamiliar faces and it's presented a new challenge.

“The first 30 days is always a bit of an adjustment as we figure out who's coming and the best way to deal with those people. They start to learn our expectations and we go from there.”

More females have arrived at the shelter and even some couples, Griffith said, which is rare for them.

“They've got a feeling of having someone they know and trust there and just the fact they don't get split up is nice. I think that's been an attraction for some couples.”

There have also been new or developing challenges since the shelter doors first opened on Nov. 1.

Griffith said many of the new people staying the night are from rough areas in Vancouver and Victoria. At the same time, Griffith said less people are turning in their alcohol every night and staff are keeping a more diligent eye on the washrooms.

There's also been a sharp uptick in IV drug usage and some sharps were found at the elementary school across from the shelter.

“That's just not okay with me,” he said. “It's been quite a challenge for my staff. We've been very vigilant making sure there's nothing in the school grounds in the morning and there's no people there at night. And we are having success, just a bit of a challenge, a bit of a hiccup.”

Outside the shelter, Griffith said there's been more community support than he's seen in some time, with successful clothing drives and even someone coming in and offering to buy pizza or other hot food for everyone sleeping the night.


[email protected]

On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit

Surrey man charged for downtown Nanaimo break-ins