No more shelter from the storm in Merritt?
There will be no shelter from the storm in Merritt this year.
According to Shelley Cressy-Hassel, director of ASK Wellness, Merritt’s annual extreme weather winter shelter will not be operational this year, at least not in the way that it has typically run in the past.
After BC Housing completed a financial analysis of the extreme weather shelter program earlier this year, the committee decided that it was no longer cost effective to offer an extreme weather shelter to the homeless of Merritt.
The analysis revealed that while Merritt has a significant enough homeless population to run an extreme weather program, few homeless individuals in Merritt were accessing the services offered to them.
This means that the few people who were accessing the service drove the operational costs per person up, thereby rendering it cost ineffective.
Low attendance at the extreme weather shelter last year meant that the cost per person to stay at the shelter was $650 a night.
Realizing that the staggering cost of running a $650 a night shelter was not financially feasible, a committee of concerned citizens, including city officials, the RCMP and staff of ASK Wellness have been meeting to see if alternative arrangements for the extreme weather program, are possible.
“We care about the citizens of Merritt, but this program is not a city funded project, it’s provincial,” said Matt Noble, chief administrative officer for the City of Merritt.
Traditionally, program has been run out of various local churches, with last year’s program running out of Crossroads Community Church.
This year, the program will attempt to run on an as needed basis, Cressy-Hassel said. Those individuals that find themselves homeless in extreme weather conditions (-8c or colder, between Nov. 15 to Mar. 31) can come to ASK Wellness or the RCMP for assistance.
If the individual seeking shelter is not intoxicated, staff at ASK and the RCMP will take the individual to one of two pre-arranged emergency shelter locations for the night.
The following morning staff from ASK will meet with the individual to discuss options for long-term housing.
The goal of the extreme weather service this year is to reduce the overall homeless population, Cressy-Hassel said.