(Langley Advance files)

UPDATED: Langley shelter still turning away homeless on cold nights

Up to seven people have been turned away during bad weather.

Homeless people have continued to be turned away from the only major shelter in the Langleys during cold weather, due to overcrowding.

In early December, the Langley Advance reported that the Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope has had to turn away some people seeking shelter.

At the time, one to three people had been turned away on a few nights.

During the snowy weather and icy rain in late December, the issues have continued and seven people were turned away on one night, according to Tiffany Sawatzky, the residential services manager at the Gateway of Hope.

“There’s been a few nights where we’ve had turnaways,” Sawatzky said Wednesday.

BC Housing has funded some of the extra mats that allowed an increase in the number of people using the Gateway of Hope shelter starting in 2016.

Normally, there are 62 spaces open in the shelter, with an additional 15 during an Extreme Weather Response event.

Sawatzky said that the barrier to adding even more people is less about space, and more about staff resources.

Those who are turned away are given bus tickets, when available, to help them get to other shelters.

Before the Gateway of Hope was built, similar emergency weather shelter programs were run out of local churches.

According to a BC Housing representative, the agency is currently looking for more partners for secondary Extreme Weather Response locations.

However, those programs were run when the number of homeless people in Langley was much smaller. The 2017 homeless count found more than 200 people living on the street or sleeping in the shelter in Langley.

Of the spaces at the shelter, 30 temporary spaces are currently being funded by BC Housing, at a cost of $302,000.

The Extreme Weather Response mats are also funded by BC Housing, which has a $2 million budget for the project, with money spread out to shelters and programs across the province.

In the near term, BC Housing and Stepping Stone Community Services Society have outreach programs to help get homeless people into permanent housing, including a rent supplement budget.

The Intensive Case Management Team was also started operating in late 2017. Funded by Fraser Health and BC Housing, it is aimed at getting immediate help for people with severe drug addictions, as well as homelessness.

• Read More: Cold nights mean homeless turned away from Langley shelter

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