Homeless youths in Langley now have somewhere to shelter from the storm, literally.
On Thursday night, as rain pounded down across the community, Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services and its partners ran their first emergency cold weather shelter for youths.
The five-mat program is being hosted at St. Dunstan's Anglican Church in Aldergrove, at 264th Street and 30A Avenue, said Loren Roberts of ANS.
"This is the first pilot," he said Thursday afternoon, after snacks, toiletries, bedding and other supplies were packed up for the night.
There is also a western anchor for the program, in the Langley Public Health Unit at 20389 Fraser Hwy.
The Public Health building won't be able to offer overnight stays, but it will be an anchor for a "safe ride" program the ANS and its partners have created.
If a teen needs a ride home from downtown, they can get one from there. If they have nowhere to stay on a cold or very wet night, they can get a ride to St. Dunstan's.
Many teenagers may be on the verge of homelessness without living on the streets full time. Many couch surf, sleeping at the home of friends. Others don't want to return to hostile or abusive homes for a day or two.
Meanwhile, most shelters are set up to deal with adults.
"If they were to go to Gateway [of Hope], I wouldn't think that Gateway would turn them away," Roberts said.
But this program should provide a welcome specifically for teenagers up to 19.
Donors have helped provide a huge amount of the needed startup goods, from snacks to bedding.
"It's been somewhat overwhelming, it's been fantastic," said Roberts.
There is also a pool of 20 to 30 volunteers who will be able to help out, and staff from ANS and Langley Community Services will be available to work with the teens.
"It's nice to know that people are out there and care about the subject," Roberts said.
In the past, any youth with nowhere to spend the night had to be taken to shelters in either Surrey or Abbotsford, Roberts said.
Many simply refused to go. For some, it was because they didn't know how they would get to school in time the next day.
Roberts notes that he's heard from some teens who have slept outside their high schools, so they knew the starting bells would wake them up the next day.
The emergency shelter has been in the planning stages for some time, and was given a boost in November when Langley City and Township each kicked in $5,000 in startup money.
The emergency shelters will be activated on the same dates when the adult emergency shelter at Gateway is set up. It will be triggered by cold temperatures or extreme rainfall or snowfall events.