Castlegar’s homeless shelter is only a few months old, but it is already on the verge of expanding.
Castlegar and District Community Services Society (CDCSS) has purchased the Flamingo Motel with intentions to move The Way Out shelter there in the coming weeks.
The society first opened the 10-bed shelter in November 2020 and it has been operating at capacity ever since. Operating a shelter is no small task and CDCSS director Kristein Johnson credits her staff for making it a success.
“We have an exceptional group of people working there,” says Johnson.
The shelter is open 24/7, offering three meals a day, warm beds and support to help clients meet their goals and overcome their challenges. There is always a minimum of two staff members on site and awake at all times.
The shelter is managed by Ray Griffith, a retired paramedic, and Johnson says his leadership skills and knowledge help to keep things running smoothly.
Final details are still being worked out for the Flamingo Hotel site and the society is still in the process of meeting with the city and fire department to determine capacity. Plans call for a portion of the building to be used for low-cost housing.
“It’s one more step in solving the housing crisis in Castlegar,” says Johnson.
“We are taking care of people and that is what we need to do. Sometimes all someone needs is that supportive environment to make positive changes in their life.”
The shelter works closely with its counterparts in Nelson and Trail and the three sites will bus clients to another shelter that has an opening. But Johnson says with the current cold spell going on, all the shelters are completely full.
CDCSS is also involved in a number of services to help vulnerable populations, not just those living at the shelter. This includes providing meals, basic necessities and harm reduction/overdose prevention services.
In fact, the CDCSS team says that one of the best things every resident of Castlegar can do to help is to get trained in how to use a Naloxone kit and they back that up by offering the training themselves. They also offer drug testing for fentanyl and benzodiazepines.
Another way to help is through the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser which will be taking place across Canada on Feb. 20. The annual event provides needed funding for homeless supports and usually features a group walk through town to raise awareness and funds. This year the fundraiser will be done in individual bubbles and virtually. To find out how you can participate or donate go to cnoy.org/location/castlegar.
The shelter can also use winter-rated sleeping bags, men’s gloves, boots, coats and financial support. Information on how to donate can be found at cdcss.ca or by calling 250-365-2104.
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