The doors of a brand new homeless shelter in Richmond opened last week, and unlike the facility it replaced, the new space is open to both women and men.

The shelter, which opened July 10 on Horseshoe Way near Ironwood Mall, was built to replace the Salvation Army shelter on Shell Road. 

That facility, however, had only been open to men. 

Now the new shelter has 36 beds with spaces for both men and women and options for couples. This is the first emergency, drop-in space for women in the city. 

"The City of Richmond continues to evaluate and respond to the needs of residents experiencing homelessness throughout the community," said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie in a news release. 

"The city works in partnership with senior levels of government and the private and non-profit sectors to develop the right mix of housing to support the needs of all residents. By working together, we offer residents experiencing homelessness a safe space and the opportunity to take the first step toward achieving stability in their lives."

The shelter, still operated by the Salvation Army, is open 24-7 and has a dining room, commercial kitchen, laundry facility and washrooms. Meals, access to skills training, employment programs and counselling are all provided. 

"The need for safe, secure shelter for those struggling with homelessness in Richmond is critical and urgent and that is why this project is so important," said Major Kathie Chiu, corps officer and executive director, Salvation Army Richmond. 

"We are very grateful to the City of Richmond and the provincial government for this project and our ongoing partnership. Together we are giving people hope today and every day."

The city purchased the site for $6 million and the provincial government has pitched in $5.6 million for the shelter.