First new emergency shelter opens in Mount Pleasant
The first of four new emergency winter shelters quietly opened in Vancouver Wednesday, and nearby residents seem to be welcoming the needy with open arms.
A few guests had already claimed spots at the temporary shelter near Broadway and Fraser Street Thursday afternoon.
Sean Spear of RainCity Housing, which operates the shelter, told CTV News that staff moved as quickly as possible to prepare space for 40 people after a snowfall warning was issued for Metro Vancouver.
"We had stuff ready in storage from last year, so we were pretty much ready to go," Spear said.
There are few rules in the shelter, but violence and "isms" like racism and sexism are prohibited. Pets and belongings are welcome, and residents can come and go as they please.
Last winter, residents near a temporary shelter at Granville and Howe streets complained about drug addicts shooting up and brawls.
But neighbours of the Mount Pleasant shelter say that as long as residents behave, they don't mind its location.
"We don't have a problem, especially with this weather. Peoples need to warm up themselves," neighbour Elma Britos said.
Some are even keen for the extra business the residents might bring.
"If there are people around here, maybe some will come in and buy pizza," restaurant owner Aduardo Gapcho said.
Despite concerns from some West End residents about a proposed temporary shelter there, Housing Minister Rich Coleman is quick to say that understanding is needed.
"You have to remember these are all human beings -- we need them to be able to come into the low-barrier shelters. The plan is not to put them all in the West End. We have four or five locations, and we're working that out with the city," he said.
The first emergency shelter will remain open until the end of April, and operators expect it to be at capacity within two days. It's open 24 hours a day, and residents will receive two meals.
It's not yet known when -- or where exactly -- the remaining three shelters will open, but the city says they will be located in Kitsilano, Downtown South and the West End. The province has kicked in for 160 additional shelter spaces during the summer months.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger